Why Sound?

Why sound? To date, light, electromagnetic waves and photonics have received the lion’s share of scientific and technological attention; yet sound waves and phonons are ubiquitous in our society. Sound waves and phonons differ from light because they exhibit transverse and longitudinal polarization, and require a supporting medium for propagation. This makes them extremely complex and prone to losses—the two technological obstacles to expanding the beneficial uses of sound. Exploiting the unique properties of sound has already provided many positive developments such as ultrasonic medical imaging, hypersound telecommunication and sensing devices. However, sound also remains a nuisance, manifesting as detrimental audible noise in urban and industrial environments, or as ‘noisy’ terahertz (THz) phonons leading to wasted energy via heat loss. Research geared toward a better understanding and harnessing of sound waves and phonons will greatly enhance the benefits of sound while minimizing detriments, leading to major advances in public and personal health, energy and communications fields.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Technological and societal challenges that are addressed by NewFoS: (A) Sound levels in cities will continue to negatively impact populations along transportation corridors  unless viable solutions are found; (B) Sound-based therapies such as the ultrasound acceleration of bone fracture healing are still at an empirical stage; (C) Heat loss in engineered systems is one of the greatest challenges for technological societies; and (D) Progress in wireless, information and communication technologies is needed beyond existing acoustic wave devices, and variations thereupon, based on 1960-70’s technologies that are plagued by loss.