Scientists Create Wallpaper-Thin Speakers

Every few decades, speakers get a little more immersive thanks to advances in sound processing technologies and cheaper access to surround sound components.

What if you could literally turn every wall in your house into one giant speaker?

This could be possible in the years to come. Researchers at MIT has developped a new kind of paper-thin speaker that’s light and durable enough to attach to all kinds of surfaces.

That all sounds good, but fancy tech doesn’t mean much if it’s too complicated and expensive to bring to market. But this state-of-the-art speaker promises the opposite: MIT News says the speaker paper can be built with a three-step process that is apparently easier than traditional speakers.

It should be noted here that this fine speaker business is not entirely new. Planar magnetic and electrostatic the speakers also rely on thin, flat vibrating material, leading to unusually thin speaker designs.

But even the material described in the MIT article is not unheard of: the speakers use polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) film, which has piezoelectric properties and has been used for loudspeakers since at least the 70s.

Traditionally, PVDF loudspeakers have faced many design challenges that have prevented their commercial viability, including problematic durability and limited frequency response. They also required a strong support structure and ultimately didn’t offer much advantage over traditional pilots.

MIT’s main innovation here seems to be to strengthen the material by reshaping it. A perforated layer of PET plastic is applied to the PVDF sheet which, when heat treated under vacuum, forces the PVDF through the perforations, creating a myriad of tiny domes.

Credit: MIT News