Dutch PhD student develops device to combat noise

December 1, 2009,

Johan Wesselink of the University of Twente, The Netherlands, has developed a device to actively combat noise nuisance. This invention curtails sound waves and vibrations by producing anti-noise. The researcher is confident that his device will be used in the transport and industrial sectors within a matter of years.

He defended his thesis on 26 November 2009 at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science.

The increase in air, road and rail traffic is leading to a build-up of noise nuisance. The consequences of such nuisance cannot be underestimated: in addition to possible hearing damage, people can end up suffering from lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, nervous conditions and high blood pressure. Johan Wesselink of the University of Twente has developed a device to combat noise nuisance.

The device uses microphones to capture sound and can curtail by producing anti-noise through loudspeakers. This is achieved by means of a rapid-response algorithm, implemented efficiently using specially developed hardware.

Johan Wesselink's device combats noise actively. The passive approach to combating noise has been with us for a while. It involves building noise barriers or fitting soundproofing materials, often resulting in an increase in the bulk and weight of the object being soundproofed. Johan hopes that his device will one day replace all those thick layers of insulation. One effect will be to decrease the weight of motor vehicles, thereby reducing their fuel consumption.

TNO Research Institute is currently investigating the practical applicability of Johan's system. It is now being tested on navy frigates, canal barges, extractor fans, heavy goods vehicles and optical precision equipment. The system can also be used to reduce the noise made by MRI scanners.

Provided by University of Twente (news : web)

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not rated yet Dec 01, 2009
This would be helpful for location video and audio production where air handling, computer and ambient noise is always an issue.
not rated yet Dec 01, 2009
I wish the article did a better job of explaining what Johan Wesselink's "magic box" does. The concept of anti-noise is logical enough; a vibration which is equal to and opposite of the ambient noise such that it would cancel out that noise. However, I cannot fathom what produces this anti-noise (other than the stated algorithm). Anyone familiar with the concept care to explain to a layman?
not rated yet Dec 01, 2009
This idea is not new. the concept and evidence of practicality was demonstrated on Gritish TV over 20 years ago.
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2009
A similar technology seems to be on the market in the form of Bose's (and other companies') noise-canceling headphones. My understanding is that the incoming noise is sampled and then re-emitted quickly but phase-inverted, effectively canceling out the original noise.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2009
Ive been pursuing this for a while myself, and while on paper it seems straightforward to just create an opposite phase sound wave to cancel out the original, dynamics of wave reflection and complexities of sound waves have only made them slightly effective in large scale areas. I'm interested to know what is being done different, but i guess thats up to the patent offices or whatnot.
not rated yet Dec 02, 2009
By the time a sound has reached the mic, then been reproduced in it's opposite form and re-output, wouldn't the actual sound have changed?
Because of this it wouldn't it fail to work for something like music?
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2009
By the time a sound has reached the mic, then been reproduced in it's opposite form and re-output, wouldn't the actual sound have changed?
Because of this it wouldn't it fail to work for something like music?

The speaker and microphone would need to be far enough apart to overcome the inherent delays in the processing (speed of sound vs. speed of light [electricity]), but this is definitely doable.
Dec 02, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Dec 02, 2009
Kudos to Johan !!!! But isn't this already been done
3 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2009
Definitely not new at all. In 1993, I wrote a program that did exactly this, but not live (could have been live, with simple modifications). I came up with the idea when I was in high school in the 1980's and finally got around to a working demo in '93. It was a C++ Windows 3.1 based program that digitized audio input, then flipped the soundwave. I played the original sound in the left speaker and the inverted version in the right speaker. If you played it with just one speaker's volume up, it sounded normal (inverted or not). Then, if you turned up the volume on ther /other/ speaker, it got /quieter!/. If you put the 2 speakers facing each other, they were almost completely canceled out with only a tiny, tin can sounding noise leaking out, presumably the result of the imperfections of the speakers. Cheap battery powered speakers worked and AC externally powered speakers did not work. I assume there were some timing problems with them.

"Beyond 2000" TV demoed a similar device
not rated yet Dec 03, 2009
You can find the Mr. Wesselink's thesis here
4 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2009
This is great!!!! They should start with installing them on the cars with loud stereos, and then on all the motorcycles that don't have mufflers.
not rated yet Dec 05, 2009
As technology that sounds just like this description obviously has been around for a while, I really hope that the reporter didn't get what the Ph.D. student is proposing. The other possibility is that the Ph.D. student is much better at marketing than at research
not rated yet Dec 06, 2009
Arthur C. Clarke proposed this idea in one of his "White Hart" sci-fi stories in the '50s.
not rated yet Dec 06, 2009
Good job. I was kicking this idea around 10 years ago at uni. Makes me ashamed that I didn't follow up on it. Congratulations to the guy for getting it to work.

The theoretical problem I had was that back then speakers would have been used which would equate to localized anti-noise sources and the noise/anti-noise signal would dephase too soon (rendering the whole thing only mute at small distances.

Sony (IIRC) built headphonse for airline travel on a similar principle to combat ambient noise and they actually work extremely well.

With planar speakers or 'active wallpaper' one could conceivably extend the range of the effect.

Though I have my doubts about using this to reduce noise from MRI machines. With the kinds of magnets involved you don't want to have too much electronics/metal in the vicinity.
not rated yet Dec 06, 2009
You don't want to put that on loud motorcycles because the whole reason they're loud is so that minivan-driving cell-phone talking ignoramuses don't run the bikers over and KILL them. They way they can at least hear something is next to them.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2009
If you're relying on the sound your vehicle makes to get noticed you probably deserve to be run over.

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