A New Soundproofing Material May Actually Make City Apartments Silent

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Crying babies, barking dogs, and jackhammers from a nearby construction site are all among the mélange of noises that city and apartment dwellers might deal with every day. But what if it all just ... stopped?

Researchers at Boston University have just created an "acoustic meta-material" that is designed to catch certain sound frequencies and send them back to their source. Fast Company first reported on the researcher's primary experiment, in which they set a loudspeaker next to a PVC pipe fitted with the material and blasted music through it. At the other end? Silence. The 3D-printed meta-material (which looks like a plastic ring) was virtually a mute button.

The discovery could have a significant impact on architecture and design, where soundproofing has been both costly and not always effective — as anyone who's ever lived in a noisy apartment or eaten at a deafeningly loud restaurant can tell you. Most modern soundproofing occurs in the form of thick walls, explains Reza Ghaffarivardavagh, a Ph.D. student who worked on the experiment, but that's not practical in many applications. In the future, the acoustic meta-material could also be fitted to noisy HVAC systems or fans in the home and office.

Check out the magic for yourself:

Laura is a New York City-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and design. Her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, and more. She's a sucker for a good curbside furniture find.

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