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Monday, September 2, 2013

A Revolution In Speaker Technology

Ionic Speaker image
The Ionic Speaker
Speaker technology as we know it has been around for about a hundred years, yet it's never really had a revolutionary product that's changed the basic electro-mechanical engine that's been used since the beginning. Sure there's been lots of evolution, as speakers of all sorts continue to be refined, and there's even been a couple tries at using lasers and even plasma to try to take speaker technology into the 21st century.

But now it looks like there may finally be something on the horizon that can actually change the way sound is reproduced for the better that can actually be manufactured. Enter the "ionic speaker," a transparent disc created at the materials science laboratory of Harvard University.

This is not actually a speaker or even an electronic device, it's a "reproducer" that consists of a thin sheet of rubber sandwiched between two layers of saltwater gel, which makes it as clear as a piece of glass. A high-voltage signal runs across the surfaces and through the layers that forces the rubber to rapidly contract and vibrate. What's different here is that unlike traditional loudspeakers, it's not electrons that are moving, but ions. That means that there may even be bionic applications for the technology (as the in the body as a reproducer) as well.

And by the way, the reproducer covers the entire audible range from 20Hz to 20kHz.

This won't be on the market soon, as there's still a lot of research as to the best materials to use for audio, but it's a magnificent and exciting start. It sure would be nice to rid ourselves of the clunky boxes we call loudspeakers for a newer and better technology.

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