Flat flexible loudspeakers promise clearer sound

Note: Tube trains not guaranteed to move this fast in real life
Note: Tube trains not guaranteed to move this fast in real life

You may have missed your last train or Tube, thanks to revolutionary flat loudspeaker technology developed by University of Warwick engineers.

The FFL (Flat Flexible Loudspeaker) tech enables speakers that are less than a quarter of a millimetre thick, light enough to be hung on walls or installed in ceiling tiles, and emit planar directional sound waves, which project further than sound from conventional speakers.

All speakers work by converting an electric signal into sound. Usually, the signal is used to generate a varying magnetic field, which in turn vibrates a mechanical cone, so producing the sound.

Excitable speakers

Warwick Audio Technology's FFL technology is a flexible laminate of thin conducting and insulating materials, which vibrate and produce sound when excited by an electrical signal.

The speaker laminate operates as a piston resonator, emitting a phase-coherent wave front with excellent directivity and very accurate sound imaging.

Steve Couchman, CEO of Warwick Audio Technologies, believes it could entirely replace the speakers currently used in homes and in cars, as well as in public address systems used in train stations, airports and shopping centres.

He says: "Its size and flexibility means it can be used in all sorts of areas where space is at a premium. Audio visual companies are investigating its use as point of sale posters for smart audio messaging and car manufacturers are interested in it for its light weight and thinness, which means it can be incorporated into the headlining of cars, rather than lower down in the interior."

The company - a spin-out from the University of Warwick - expects to launch its first commercial product later this year.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.