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MSU breakthrough could lead to foldable loudspeakers and talking newspapers

Hamza Butt

New research from Michigan State University could be used to create portable loudspeakers, talking newspapers, or smarter voice activated locks. 

In 2016 researchers from MSU found a way to convert mechanical energy into electricity - turning touch and pressure on a small, flexible device into electrical pulses. 

Now researchers are doing the same thing with sound. 

Nelson Sepulveda is the primary researcher on the project. He said they are now using sound vibrations to send electrical impulses. 

“It can convert electrical energy from, for example from your audio jack for example from your phone, the output from that, and convert it to vibrations on the surface on this flexible film, on this flexible device, and create sound.”

Sepulveda said the breakthrough could have multiple applications.

“It could take vibrations from you voice, pressure vibrations that travel through air because of your voice because you are speaking, or any noise actually. It converts that into an electrical energy that could be analyzed and then used to propagate that sound. So it can be used as a microphone and a loudspeaker.”

And in the distant future Sepulveda said the technology could be used for e-papers.

“So now imagine that you can not only see the e-paper and scroll down in the e-paper but the e-paper could also take voice commands and the e-paper could also talk back to you and acknowledge the voice command and have this interaction by sound.”

He said the discovery is in it’s early stages - and won’t see mass production anytime soon. 

The research is supported through the national science foundation.