The Promising Future of Acoustic Energy


Lucas Marquez, Staff Writer

Can sound solve the energy crisis as we know it? 

Sound and energy are crucial to the road we call life. Not only that, but we have an abundance of it. From densely populated cities to the buzzing of the bees, sound is an essential part of everyday life for all of the things that call earth home. Then there is power; something that we as people can never get enough of. With the pollution of the planet and global warming on the rise, people have been trying to find new sustainable ways to harness energy for use. Now, what if we were able to use the abundance of sound that we have and turn it into energy? That is the intent of this article: Can we convert sound into energy? Now before we can answer that question we have to have to ask, what is sound in the first place?

What is sound? Sound, the energy of vibration that causes the sensation of hearing. This is by definition what sound is. But to have a better understanding of what sound is we have to lift the covers a bit more to see what exactly it is and how it interacts with things. Sound is the vibration of the molecules in the air. When these molecules vibrate in a certain direction, they vibrate the other molecules in front of them almost like knocking over dominos, causing a chain of vibrations. Because of this, eventually the sound expands in a V-like direction causing a wave effect. This is what is commonly known as sound waves. Now when hearing something what is actually happening is that vibrations in the air travel all the way through your ear causing your eardrum to vibrate. This is what we all hear as sound. Now depending on what the sound has traveled through, where the sound has come from, and how far it has come, it can change what you hear. Now that we have a general idea of what sound is, is it possible to harness these vibrations and turn them into consumable energy?

The answer is yes! Studies and experiments have yielded results of being able to turn sound in energy using a suitable transducer. (Peertechz Publications). Now this may seem like a different language to some, but I assure you it’s a real thing. Let’s break this word down so we can have a better understanding of what it is. A transducer by definition is a device that converts variations in a physical quantity, such as pressure or brightness, into an electrical signal, or vice versa. A couple examples of a transducer are microphones, loudspeakers, thermometers, position and pressure sensors, and antennas. Now what this device does is as the sound travels through the air the vibration waves that were mentioned earlier are picked up by a flexible diaphragm on the device and then turned into consumable electricity or any other energy type. A simple way to think of it is almost like a windmill, except instead of wind pushing the wings, it’s sound waves pushing it back and forth. Now that we know it’s possible to convert sound into energy, can this be the new big replacement for things like fossil fuels? 

At the moment unfortunately the answer is no. Currently at the rate that we harness energy from sound there are two main complications. First one is the yield. When harnessing energy from sound the yield barely comes out positive for the materials used. Therefore it’s much more effective to use things like solar panels and such as a viable energy source. The second reason connects to the first because we are actually unable to completely tap all of the energy that sound produces. For these reasons, we are unable to use it as a viable energy source… at the moment. These studies are not complete yet and considering how fast technology is moving, especially in this area, it’s not unreasonable, within the next decade, for us to see even further and more advanced improvement for these technologies. With that being said, keep an ear out for the tech because before you know it, it’ll only be a listen away.