The University of California (UC) Berkeley is used to getting buzz for out-of-this-world technological advancements. A group of researchers from the university have announced the creation of the first graphene-based earphones. Except, why all the attention for simple old earphones? And what is graphene? Does that have something to do with the graphite of a pencil?
This simple answer is graphene earbuds produce unbelievable sound with a super-small piece of equipment and are incredibly strong. As this technology develops, it will revolutionize how earbuds are manufactured and what they will even look like!
What Is Graphene
Graphene, though definitely not graphite, is a substance with similarities to the substance used for the manufacture of pencils. Both are made of carbon and follow the same hexagonal patterns of bonding. Graphene layers, stacked on top of another, provide the foundation for forming graphite. But enough of chemistry, let’s delve into the buzz of graphene. The reason the graphene earphones from UC Berkeley are getting a lot of attention is due to the properties of the substance. A single layer of graphene, not tampered by any chemical processes, offers a frequency response similar in range to high quality Sennheiser earphones.
The key properties that elicit the most excitement are that graphene is extremely light and very strong. If you’re wondering just how strong it is, just multiply the strength of steel by a hundred and you’ll get the idea. This strength can take out one step in the manufacturing of earphones, damping the diaphragms. In traditional non-graphene earphones, the diaphragms have to be damped to keep them from tearing. A graphene earphone wouldn’t need that kind of processing given the strength of the material.
The UC Berkeley researchers constructed their graphene earphones’ diaphragm from a single sheet of graphene 30 nanometers thick and 7 millimeters wide. To avoid shorting out the earphones from the vibrations of the diaphragm, the graphene sheet is coated with silicon dioxide. From here, the main sound production mechanism is complete. To get the proper sound out, the electricity running through the diaphragm only needs to be oscillated at the appropriate levels.
While it is definitely exciting news to hear of a pair of earphones that remain largely untuned and unoptimized but ready to go, seeing a commercial version may take a long while. There’s also no telling just how much such a pair of earphones would cost.