A new spin on guiding sound waves along a one-way route | Science News

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A new spin on guiding sound waves along a one-way route

Acoustic device could cloak objects, jettison loud sounds

By
3:36pm, March 27, 2015
illustration of a proposed topological insulator

ON THE EDGE  Sound waves, shown in red and blue, are confined to the edge of a proposed acoustic topological insulator in these computer simulations. Sound moves counterclockwise from the source and easily navigates sharp turns (top). 

An array of miniature turntables could offer a powerful new way to control the flow of sound.

The proposed device, reported in the March 20 Physical Review Letters, would channel sound waves in a protected one-way thoroughfare along its edge. The structure is an acoustic version of a hotly researched class of materials called topological insulators. As the name suggests, these materials are primarily insulators, yet they efficiently transport electrons along their periphery.

The new study “shows that this rather exotic physical property can emerge in something as familiar as sound propagation,” says Steven Cummer, an electrical engineer at Duke University who was not involved in the work.

For now, the design requires many moving parts and manipulates only a narrow swath of sound frequencies. But a similar structure could eventually allow engineers to redirect loud noises out of a

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