Montreal-based tech startup Ora Sound believes it has a design and process that could bring graphene-based speaker membranes to the mass market. Insanely lightweight and strong, the Grapheneq speaker cones could extend battery life on portable devices by up to 50 percent.
The lighter a speaker membrane gets, the less energy it takes to move it back and forth to create sound – and the more responsive it can be. That means longer battery life and better sound reproduction.
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Ideally, everyone would be making speaker cones out of graphene. Heck, ideally, we'd be making just about everything out of graphene, as its material properties are simply ludicrous. It's the strongest known material in the universe, with extraordinarily light weight and excellent conductivity. It dominates in pretty much any field it competes – but mostly in the lab, as it's currently difficult and expensive to produce, to the point where the global graphene market was only worth about US$25 million last year.
We took a look back in 2014 at the first graphene speaker ever assembled in a lab, which was already giving impressive results on frequency response tests. Now, a Montreal-based tech startup is pushing to get graphene speakers onto the market.
Ora's patented technology is called Grapheneq, a membrane that is 98 percent graphene by weight, bonded together with oxygen and other additives to form a laminate material.
On top of its excellent frequency response and damping characteristics, Ora claims it's so light that portable audio devices using Grapheneq speaker membranes could get twice the battery life they do with existing materials.
In terms of manufacturing, Ora believes it's got things sorted out, saying that it "can be formed using a simple industrial process directly into the cone and dome shapes used in loudspeakers." The company sees these lightweight units as drop-in replacements for typical speaker membranes.
Without a product to speak of at this point, Ora is shopping the idea around to consumer electronics companies, looking to become a key supplier. It would certainly be a big deal if these guys can get graphene speakers to a price point that works for the market, but we imagine it's going to need to demonstrate some very compelling performance to make it worthwhile for manufacturers to switch over from much cheaper paper or mylar membranes.
Source: ORA SoundView gallery - 3 images