For most people, a world without sound is impossible to imagine. It’s the first thing we experience when we wake in the morning and the last sense we’re aware of before we drift off to sleep at night. Throughout the day, we experience our world through sound by listening to music, participating in conversations, gathering information from podcasts and television and a myriad of other ways we take for granted.
Regardless of its source, all sound works the same way: it’s the energy that’s produced when something vibrates. Oftentimes, we only think about the psychological aspect of sound, which is the process that happens in our ears and brain that converts those vibrations into something we interpret as words, music and other noises. But sound isn’t just conceptual; it has a physical aspect, too, and its waves have been used to do some pretty interesting things.
interesting ways that sound waves are used
Because sound is an actual physical wave, we can manipulate it to do something other than keep us entertained during our work commute. It’s also been used to treat medical conditions, clean, generate electricity and make one-of-a-kind artwork.
Sound Can Make Objects Levitate
Sound may seem intangible, which makes it hard to believe that it can lift items, but this is a real phenomenon. Acoustic levitation uses the physical properties of sound to make dense gases, liquids and even solids float midair. At the University of Tokyo, researchers built on this idea by arranging four panels of speakers to face each other and emitting high frequencies. They created a control point, or a point where all the frequencies come together. By adjusting the frequencies, they could move the control point, along with the levitating particles, around.
Sound Can Create Electricity
At the University of Nottingham, a team of researchers created the SCORE Stove. This wood-burning stove can convert heat into sound, and then sound into electricity using a thermo-acoustic engine. Heat is directed to this engine using a pipe, and it’s warmed to the point of vibration. This produces intense sound waves that a linear alternator converts into electricity. After about 3 hours of use, the stove produces enough energy to light a home for a night, making it a viable option for bringing electricity to developing nations.
Sound Can Create Art
There are some interesting ways that sound waves are used to create personalized art & jewelry. The sound wave produced by your voice has its own distinct pattern, which Soundwave Art™ can use to create custom art & jewelry. They designed software so you can record your voice and see what your voice pattern looks like. The process is simple; just pick the product you’re interested in, click on the button that says “Record,” and follow the instructions on the design tool that opens.
Sound Can Be Used in Medicine
From blasting kidney stones to capturing images of an unborn baby using an ultrasound scan, high-frequency sound waves have been used in medicine for decades. More recently, a private company called InSightec created a medical device that combines MRI with focused ultrasound to conduct noninvasive brain surgery.
Sound Can Clean
As it turns out, sound waves are pretty good at cleaning objects, even those made from delicate materials like ceramics or glass. Ultrasonic cleaning is an efficient form of cleaning everything from jewelry and clothing to firearms and surgical instruments. Using a spectrum of sound frequencies that aren’t audible to us, along with water or another cleaner, ultrasonic machines provide rapid removal of germs, dirt and other particles and contaminants.
These are just a few interesting ways that sound waves are used today. As we develop new ways of interacting with our world, including with sound, it’s exciting to think about how technology will allow us to use sound waves in the future. Check out the history of sound waves to learn more.