Turns Out Silk Can Be Used to Effectively Reduce Noise

This technology could have many applications

Silk curtains
A certain type of silk could help regulate unwanted sounds.
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Dealing with unwanted sounds is an issue for nearly everyone, regardless of where they live. Living in a city can mean an array of sounds from roads and sidewalks alike; living in a more rural setting can involve the sounds of lawnmowers, trains or industrial equipment. There’s also an issue of sounds within a given home: you might be watching televison while someone else works, each of you with your own sonic preferences.

A recent technological finding may have unlocked a solution to people who’d like more options to effectively soundproof a given abode or room. The authors of a paper recently published in Advanced Materials learned that silk can be used to suppress a significant percentage of different sounds. As the paper’s authors wrote, this could lead to “opportunities for sound control in a variety of applications ranging from apparel to transportation to architecture.”

MIT News’ Adam Zewe neatly summarized the researchers’ findings. As part of their research, the scientists created fabrics that included fibers that vibrated when connected with a power source. They discovered two uses for this: generating noise that could cancel sound coming from elsewhere and halting the vibrations that sounds are making. As Zewe explained, the same group of scientists had previously researched ways to create microphones using fabric, which gave them some insights into how fabrics could be used to acoustic ends.

“While we can use fabric to create sound, there is already so much noise in our world,” lead author Grace Yang told MIT News. “We thought creating silence could be even more valuable.”

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“Noise is a lot easier to create than quiet. In fact, to keep noise out we dedicate a lot of space to thick walls,” Yoel Fink, another of the paper’s authors, told the publication. “Grace’s work provides a new mechanism for creating quiet spaces with a thin sheet of fabric.” It’s not hard to see the design possiblities for this technology — or the different ways it could be purposed, from hotel rooms to residences to office spaces.

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