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October 4, 2016

Acoustic voxels used to embed sound with data (Image 2)

A demonstration of an object with a specific voxel assembly, which produces a unique, identifiable acoustic signature. A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering, Disney Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a method to control sound waves using a computational approach to inversely design acoustic filters that fit within an arbitrary 3D shape, while achieving target sound-filtering properties.

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A team of researchers from Columbia Engineering, Disney Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a method to control sound waves using a computational approach to inversely design acoustic filters that fit within an arbitrary 3D shape, while achieving target sound-filtering properties.

Led by Changxi Zheng, a computer science professor at Columbia, the team designed acoustic voxels--small, hollow, cube-shaped chambers through which sound enters and exits -- as a modular system. Like Legos®, the voxels can be connected to form a complex structure. Because of their internal chambers, they can modify the acoustic filtering property of the structure -- and changing their number and size or how they connect alters the acoustic result.

"In the past, people have explored computational design of specific products, like a certain type of muffler or a particular shape of trumpet," says Zheng. "The general approach to manipulating sound waves has been to computationally design chamber shapes. Our algorithm enables new designs of noise mufflers, hearing aids, wind instruments and more -- we can now make them in any shape we want, even a 3D-printed toy hippopotamus that sounds like a trumpet."

The computational approach Zheng’s team has come up with will enable better designs for manipulating acoustic propagation of many products, such as automobile mufflers and instruments.

The research was funded in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award (grant IIS 14-53101).

To learn more, see the NSF News From the Field story Columbia Engineering researchers use acoustic voxels to embed sound with data. (Date image taken: 2015; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Oct. 4, 2016) [Image 2 of 3 related images. See Image 3.]

Credit: Changxi Zheng, Columbia University


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