Award-winning acoustic innovation in hearing protection
Innovation awards finalist Restored Hearing has created Sound Bounce material, 35 times more effective than other sound absorbing products
Restored Hearing company founders Eimear O’Carroll (left) and Rhona Togher. Photograph: Conor McCabe
Restored Hearing, the Sligo-based company behind Sound Relief, the award-winning tinnitus therapy, has developed a revolutionary new smart acoustic material which is up to 35 times more effective than traditional sound absorbing materials.
Sound Bounce opens up new possibilities across a range of industries including transport, construction and manufacturing where noise insulation and space are at a premium.
Company founders Eimear O’Carroll and Rhona Togher have been innovating in this space for a number of years and this latest invention follows directly on from work on a novel hearing protection system.
At the core of both is a patented material which responds to sound in an entirely new way.
“When we were developing the hearing protection product we started looking at different materials,” says O’Carroll. “This led us to develop the Sound Bounce material. We have enclosed a naturally occurring active material inside a cellular shaped skin. The energy absorbing materials we use haven’t been used in acoustics before.”
In fact, what the pair have created is an entirely new material which actually responds to sound and alters its structure and properties in accordance with the frequency and loudness of the noise. It does this by harnessing a phenomenon known as thixotropy which gives the material noise cancelling properties without the need for electronics. The active material inside the cellular structure changes viscosity and becomes more liquid in response to increased noise levels.
This means that it actually uses the energy of the sound to increase its insulation properties. The louder the sound the better the insulation. It is also exceptionally good at insulating against low frequency sounds with some tests indicating a better performance than concrete walls.
“The main advantage is the thinness of the material. The material is up to 30 times thinner than is usually required,” Togher explains. “It could be used around aircraft engines to provide better noise insulation for example.”
This will assist that industry in meeting its ambitious target of reducing noise emissions by almost two thirds by 2050.
The improved insulation will also deliver potential productivity benefits across a range of industries. Noise emission regulations are having an increasing impact on manufacturing industry which is having to run machinery slower in order to remain within limits.
Sound Bounce could offer a cost-efficient solution to this either by the overall noise insulation of the facility allowing it to comply with regulations at increased production levels. The potential market for the new material is vast.
“The global market for acoustic materials is worth €3.75 billion at the moment and is growing at 6 per cent annually,” O’Carroll points out.
Access to this huge market will mainly be achieved through partnership arrangements. This will initially be with manufacturers who will produce the material under licence and then with suppliers to particular industry sectors.
“We will work with companies in different industries to address the particular sound challenges that they face,” she adds. “We are already working with some major chemical companies as well. This is how we will scale the solution globally and achieve ubiquity. Partnership is definitely the way forward for us.”
While sales and marketing will be an area of focus for the company in the years ahead, innovation will remain a priority.
“We are working on a number of projects with the Amber Institute for Materials Science which includes Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick. It’s great to have all this knowledge and expertise right on your doorstep.”