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From noise-canceling headphones to industrial soundproof materials, the market for quiet is growing. In fact, the global acoustics insulation market alone is expected to exceed $15 billion by 2025. As greater awareness of noise pollution and its effects increase, the business of selling silence is evolving as well. And with the creation of new acoustic metamaterials and other innovations, opportunities continue to expand.

In a number of sectors today, soundproof materials are in high demand as industries and consumers alike seek out the quiet. This sector has evolved from passive to active noise control in the last decade. But new innovations demonstrate how even these may be technologies of the past. These include intriguing products not only for construction and mechanical systems but for marine and healthcare areas as well.

Science has made some great sound blocking materials.
Thanks to acoustic metamaterials, the days of stuffing cotton balls in your ears to block out sound might be over.

3-D Printed Acoustic Metamaterial – The Soundproof Material of the Future?

Researchers at Boston University have recently made a remarkable discovery. By applying mathematical and physics models to 3-D printing, they have created an acoustic metamaterial. This unique design provides a transparent structure that allows air and light to pass through but prohibits sound. In fact, the acoustic metamaterial reduces sound by 94 percent making it inaudible to the human ear. Rather than absorbing sound, this new soundproof material reverses the sound wave’s direction thus eliminating noise. But it does so without requiring airflow and light to be blocked as well.

The experiments conducted placed a loudspeaker at one end of a hollow pipe and the acoustic metamaterial at the other. The open end of the tube contained the acoustic metamaterial ring, and as a result, the loudspeaker could not be heard through the tube. The potential applications of this soundproof material are tremendous. Uses to eliminate noise from HVAC units, drones, and even MRI machines have been suggested. And the opportunity to create larger transparent walls for indoor cubicles or interstate buffers also exist. By stacking or connecting 3-D designs of this acoustic metamaterial, the potential applications are endless.

David Hoffmann talks air bubbles.
A greater understanding of the mechanics of sound has led to more than just the development of sound-blocking material.

Innovative Soundproof Materials for Marine Sectors

Certainly, the acoustic metamaterial could revolutionize noise abatement industries. But this is not the only innovation in the field today. Continental AG is “making waves” in marine sectors as well in relation to new soundproof material ideas. In fact, their air-bubble curtain used in constructing wind farms in open waters markedly reduces noise up to 95 percent. Their patented perforated hose is placed around the drilling site, and an air bubble curtain surrounds the operations. The air bubbles change the density of the water, which causes sound waves to be disrupted. And at the same time, the soundproof material also improves the efficiency of operations.

The reason this soundproof material innovation is so important involves the protection of marine life. Specific marine species such as porpoises, cod, herring, and seals rely on sound to orient themselves. The noise created by drilling markedly disrupts their ability to use sound for this purpose. In fact, it has been compared to constantly listening to a circular saw. But with the “Big Bubble Curtain,” Continental AG offers an ideal solution.

2Hz founder talking sound
Companies like 2Hz aim to make digital communications quieter – or at least more clear.

Will Acoustic Metamaterials and Other Innovations Disrupt Current Market Leaders?

Several businesses occupy the soundproof materials market today. Sound Seal represents a market leader in commercial and architectural soundproof material products. They offer industrial noise control as well as a variety of acoustic paneling and flooring products. Likewise, Durr Universal, with a market cap of $3.11 billion, boasts 65 years of experience and an array of silencer systems. These include silencers that reduce noise from blowers, fans, ventilation systems and more. But the business of silence has extended into even digital communications, with 2Hz out to reduce noise on phone calls.

However, new technology and soundproof materials like acoustic metamaterials offer new companies a chance to make an impact. With 3-D printing abilities, such companies could offer bold solutions in local markets for a variety of issues. Just as innovation in technology has affected other sectors, the business of selling silence offers similar opportunities. And with noise pollution awareness increasing, these opportunities could be quite significant.

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