You may soon be able to add paper-thin speakers to that flat-panel TV, the Economist reports. Scientists have used ultra-tiny carbon nanotubes to make a transparent film that produces sound identical to a signal-carrying current that passes through it. If the technology can be made commercially viable, you might be saying goodbye to those heavy speaker cabinets in your home entertainment center.
The nanotubes, a tiny fraction of an inch across and used in tennis rackets and handlebars, produce sound via the “thermoacoustic effect,” the scientific principle that explains how we hear thunder. The technology might also benefit headphones and hearing aids. Still, manufacturing the film in sufficient quantities remains a challenge, so it might be awhile before your speakers are thinner than your credit card.