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Engineers Invent Acoustic Equivalent of One-Way Glass 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the sound-waves-aren't-welcome-here dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Up until now, acoustic waves traveling between two points in space always exhibited a basic symmetry summed up with the phrase, 'if you can hear, you can also be heard.' Not anymore; Tia Ghose reports at Live Science that a team at UT Austin has created a 'nonreciprocal acoustic circulator,' the first step that could lead to the sound equivalent of a one-way mirror. All waves — whether visible light, sound, radio or otherwise — have a physical property known as time reversal symmetry — a wave sent one way can always be sent back. For radio waves, researchers figured out how to break this rule using magnetic materials that set electrons spinning in one direction. The resulting radio waves detect the difference in the material in one direction versus the other, preventing reverse transmission. To accomplish the feat with sound waves, the team created a cavity loaded with tiny CPU fans that spin the air with a specific velocity. The air is spinning in one direction, so the flow of air 'feels' different to the wave in one direction versus the other, preventing backward transmission. As a result, sound waves can go in, but they can't go the other way. The result is one-directional sound. With such a device, people can hear someone talking, but they themselves cannot be heard. The findings will likely lead to many useful applications, says Sebastien Guenneau. 'I would be surprised if sound industries do not pick up this idea. This could have great applications in sound insulation of motorways, music studios, submarines and airplanes.'"
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Engineers Invent Acoustic Equivalent of One-Way Glass

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  • Applications? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Friday January 31, 2014 @02:14PM (#46121739)

    Music studios yes, but why would airplanes want to transmit sound from inside to outside, or vice-versa? Same with motorways. You definitely want to block traffic noise from adjacent buildings, but why would you care that folks in the cars can hear whats coming from the buildings? Just block it all.

  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Friday January 31, 2014 @03:06PM (#46122223)

    > "This could have great applications in sound insulation of motorways"

    Last I checked, the screams of children within neighborhoods protected by motorway sound barriers were not a major nuisance or safety hazard for motorists.

    Or are we just brainstorming ideas without any thought behind them?

    A one way sound barrier makes sense if you have an application where you actually need sound to go through in one direction. If you don't, then a wall is a better and almost certainly cheaper solution.

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