Cutting noise with a lightweight metamaterial sound screen

June 24, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Dr Gianluca Memoli from Metasonixx with the metamaterial sound screen
UK startup Metasonixx is starting trials of a plastic metamaterial that acts as a lightweight screen to cut out noise but maintain airflow.

Researchers in the UK have developed a lightweight metamaterial sound screen that replaces partitions in hospitals by using noise cancellation technology. The team at Metasonixx, a spinout of the Universities of Sussex and Bristol, is also in trials to test the technology alongside a motorway in Italy.

A study published in the British Medical Journal reported that 40 percent of hospital patients are bothered by noise at night with levels regularly exceeding international recommendations, and noise levels in intensive care can top 88dB.

The Sonoblind panel is built from an acoustic metamaterials made from lightweight plastic with shapes specifically cancel out sound waves. This leads to much lighter panels with the same noise reduction as thick plywood walls but still allowing air to move through. This also makes it much easier to move partitions around.

“Our panels are much lighter than traditional solutions for noise abatement and, if required, can even let air and light through,” said Dr Gianluca Memoli from the School of Engineering of Informatics of the University of Sussex. “Some of the panels can be used as grilles to silence air conditioning units and extractor fans or as part of blinds, to keep the noise out while the window stays open.” 

Trials are about to start in UK hospitals in an attempt to reduce the constant noise on busy wards. 

Similarly, Metasonixx is soon to start working with Movyon, the centre for research and innovation in the Autostrade per l'Italia Group in Italy. This project will look at using metamaterial panels externally, to create quiet areas for drivers in peaceful outdoor settings.

“The measurements to characterise the local soundscape are underway near Florence, and our initial ideas will be presented at Euronoise 2021, in October,” said Jon Eccles, one of the Metasonixx technicians involved. 

The technology has also just won an award of £25,000 from the Armourers & Brasiers venture fund.

“We intend to use the Venture Prize money to manufacture panels, to be used in trials in hospitals and offices across the UK,” said Dr Memoli. “Our designs take inspiration from devices that shape light - like lenses, holograms and LCD displays. Metasonixx's technology, based on acoustic metamaterials, can be the ultimate defence against noise at home or in open offices.”

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Dr Gianluca Memoli from Metasonixx with the metamaterial sound screen

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