Feb 27, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the University of Sussex in the UK have used special 3D printed bricks to build sound-shaping metamaterials that can direct sound waves. The materials could be used to create audio hotspots or to destroy tumors using high-intensity ultrasound.

Medical imaging and personal audio could be about to get a major overhaul thanks to a system of tiny 3D printed bricks—something that looks more like a LEGO kit than a serious research project. Researchers from the University of Sussex have created a series of metamaterials, each consisting of various combination of 3D printed bricks, that can focus and redirect sound waves.

“We want to create acoustic devices that manipulate sound with the same ease and flexibility with which LCDs and projectors do to light,” said Professor Sriram Subramanian, Head of the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex and one of the researchers working on the study.

The research carried out by the University of Sussex team has been published in Nature Communications, where the researchers explain how their cheap and simple 3D printing method could be used to create devices such as audio spotlights and ultrasonic haptics.

At the center of the research is a system of 3D printed bricks, each of which is able to “coil up” space. These space-coiling 3D printed cubes are able to slow down sound, allowing incoming sound waves to be transformed into any required sound field.

According to the researchers, the sound-shaping metamaterials made from 3D printed bricks could be used in many applications. Large versions could be used to build an audio hotspot, with sound directed to a particular location. Smaller versions, on the other hand, could be fitted to the body of a patient and used to focus high-intensity ultrasound to destroy deep-lying tumors in the body.

"Our metamaterial bricks can be 3D printed and then assembled together to form any sound field you can imagine,” said Dr Gianluca Memoli, also from the Interact Lab at the University of Sussex, and lead author of the study. “We also showed how this can be achieved with only a small number of different bricks. You can think of a box of our metamaterial bricks as a do-it-yourself acoustics kit.”

The researchers say that the 3D printed metamaterials could be improved further, by making layers of the materials dynamically reconfigurable. This would allow the researchers to create affordable imaging systems for medical diagnostics or crack detection.

“Our research opens the door to new acoustic devices combining diffraction, scattering and refraction, and enables the future development of fully digital spatial sound modulators, which can be controlled in real time with minimal resources,” Subramanian added.

Authors of the study were Memoli, Mihai Caleap, Michihiro Asakawa, Deepak R. Sahoo, Bruce W. Drinkwater, and Subramanian.

Back in November, researchers at Duke University published the results of a very similar study, in which 3D printed “Lego bricks” were used to create sound holograms. The Sussex study was submitted to Nature Communications exactly one week before the Duke study was published in Scientific Reports.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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