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Study: Spider Threads Improve Microphones in Smartphones

Study: Spider Threads Improve Microphones in Smartphones

Tuesday, 7 November, 2017 - 06:15
A spider weaves its web on tree during the early morning in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. (Reuters)

Fine fibers like spider silk actually improve the quality of microphones used in smartphones and for devices used by people with hearing impairments, said a new study at the Binghamton University, State University of New York.

In his study, "Sensing fluctuating airflow with spider silk", Professor Ron Miles and Jian Zhou said the discovery should lead to the manufacturing of better microphones for hearing aids than traditional pressure-based systems.

Miles explained the new idea: “We use our eardrums, which pick up the direction of sound based on pressure, but most insects actually hear with their hairs.”

This means that the spider silk is able to pick up the velocity of the air instead of the pressure of the air.

According to the German News Agency (dpa), mosquitoes, flies and spiders all have fine hairs on their bodies that move with sound waves traveling through the air. Miles wanted to recreate this type of hearing inside a microphone.

Science Daily website reported that spider silk is thin enough that it can also move with the air when hit by sound waves.

"This can even happen with infrasound at frequencies as low as 3 hertz," said Miles.

The study used spider silk, but he explained that any fiber that is thin enough could be used in the same way.

“We coated the spider silk with gold and put it in a magnetic field to obtain an electronic signal. It's actually a fairly simple way to make an extremely effective microphone that has better directional capabilities across a wide range of frequencies,” added Miles.

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