Scientists invent new type of 'acoustic prism'

Researchers believe the device could inspire a new generation of mixed radar-sonar technologies.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 10, 2016 at 11:22 AM
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Scientists in Switzerland have invented an "acoustic prism" capable of splitting a sound into its basic frequencies.

Like an optical prism, which relies on the physical property of refraction, the newly invented acoustic prism dissects sound using only physical properties. Unlike an optical prism, which can be found in nature, the acoustic prism is man-made.

The prism takes the form of a rectangular tube of aluminum with ten evenly spaced and neatly aligned holes cut through it. When a sound is directed at one end of the prism, its constituent frequencies are split up. Higher frequencies are siphoned through the closest holes, while lower frequencies are pulled into the holes farther down.

The split sound waves are dispersed as they travel through and across the prism. The angle of dispersion depends on the frequencies split through each hole.

Tests showed the prism can be used as an antenna. The frequency of a the main component of a sound reveals from which direction it came.

"The principle of the acoustic prism relies on the design of cavities, ducts and membranes, which can be easily fabricated and even miniaturized, possibly leading to cost-effective angular sound detection without resorting to expensive microphone arrays or moving antennas," researchers wrote in a news release.

The novel research was detailed in a new paper, published this week in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Researchers believe the device could inspire a new generation of mixed radar-sonar technologies.

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