Silk fabric — almost as thin as human hair — capable of suppressing unwanted noise has been developed by a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Making this possible is a fiber within the thin silk fabric that is activated once an electrical charge is applied. According to its developers, the fabric will start shaking in response to sound, and will subsequently buffer noise.

Source: MIT NewsSource: MIT News

The approach takes inspiration from the technology behind noise-canceling headphones, wherein researchers tapped into the fabric’s vibrations to create a so-called “symphony of silence.”

This is accomplished by emitting sound waves that interfere with unwanted noise — much like a musical duet wherein one cancels out the other. The team noted that this approach aims to silence noise disturbances in small spaces like rooms or cars.

The team opted for materials like silk, canvas and muslin to create noise-suppressing fabrics that would be easy and practical to incorporate in real-world spaces in the shape of dividers in open workspaces or thin fabric walls

Further, the MIT team discovered that keeping the fabric still also helped to prevent sound from traveling, thereby stopping noise from getting through walls or dividers. When the fabric is quiet, it bounces back sound, similar to how a mirror bounces back light.

Additionally, a series of experiments with the material revealed that the mechanical properties of a fabric and the size of its pores affected how sound was generated. For instance, although silk and muslin have similar mechanical properties, silk’s smaller pore sizes reportedly made it a better fabric loudspeaker.

When tested in direct suppression mode, the researchers determined that silk significantly reduced the volume of sounds up to 65 decibels. Meanwhile, when tested in vibration-mediated suppression mode, the fabric reduced sound transmission by up to 75%.

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