Researchers in the US have created a printed array of metamaterials that can produce passive 3D acoustic holograms from a simple sound source, such as a single speaker. The device is made up of 3D-printed Lego-like blocks that can be put together in different configurations. The researchers say that their method is cheaper and simpler than other techniques and that they expect it to "open a new realm of holographic acoustic wave manipulation".
A visual hologram manipulates electromagnetic waves in the visible part of the spectrum to create a 3D image. Because sound also travels in waves, it should be possible to create complex 3D fields of sound – acoustic holograms – in a similar way. While visual holograms can be made with physical structures that diffract light, it isn't so easy with sound due to a lack of materials with the required acoustic properties. Generally, acoustic holograms use a transducer array controlled by complex phase shifting electronics.
Physics World: Building-block metamaterials shape 3D acoustic holograms
Michael Allen is a science writer based in Bristol, UK