MIT engineers did it. The tapestry-shaped speaker is as thin as paper. It can turn any surface into an active audio signal source. It produces sound with minimal distortion while. Plus, it uses a fraction of the power required by a traditional speaker.
The tapestry-shaped speaker that the team showed weighs about as much as a dime. And it can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is attached to. It could be scaled up to produce ultra-thin speakers such as for wallpapering a room. The flexible device could also be used for immersive entertainment.
“It turns out extraordinary. It looks like a thin sheet of paper. You connect it to the computer and you hear sounds emanating from it. You only need a pinch of electrical energy to make it work,” Vladimir Bulovic says in a statement. He is director of MIT.nano and lead author of the paper.
His design is based on tiny domes on a thin layer of individually vibrating piezoelectric material. Each is only a few hairs wide. They are surrounded by spacer layers on top. They protect the domes from abrasion and impact during daily handling, improving the durability of the speaker.
“This is a very simple and straightforward process. It would allow us to produce these speakers with high performance if we integrate it with a continuous process in the future. That means it could be manufactured in large quantities. Perhaps wallpaper to cover walls, automobiles or airplane interiors.”
The domes are 15 microns high, about one-sixth the thickness of a human hair. They move up and down about half a micron when they vibrate. Each dome is a single sound-generating unit. It takes thousands of these tiny domes vibrating together to produce an audible sound.