A HEADPHONE with no moving parts has been demonstrated using thermoacoustics and tiny tubes called nanotubes.
As you probably learned in Physics GCSE, most speakers work by using mechanical drivers that vibrate the air in front of them to reproduce different frequencies. But not so these, which work by passing an alternating current through a conductor, heating and cooling the air around it and causing the conductor to expand and contract.
Perfecting work started at Tsinghua University in 2008, the new headphones use a film made of nanotubes that can be applied to any flexible material. Electrodes are applied to each end in order to create the driver for a speaker.
The main advantage of this method is that there is almost no wear and tear. The technique was embedded into a pair of earbuds that have been in use for a year and have shown no degradation in tests. Because nanotubes can be built using existing technologies in chip factories, they could be remarkably cheap to produce.
We've had no comment on the sound quality of these headphones, and in fact none of the information we have even mentions it, which should immediately start alarm bells ringing.
Ray Baughman, director of the Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas in Dallas, said that while he is impressed, there are still a few bugs to iron out, particularly high power consumption, as the efficiency of nanotubes in turning electrical energy into sound is quite poor.
But in spite of this, if the sound quality is comparable this could one day revolutionise the way we listen to music. It wasn't that long ago that we listened to radio through tubes. Now, history could be repeating in miniature. µ
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