March 15, 2010, 1:02 PM — Do you want to rock out to laser-powered speakers that cover your windows and walls? Soon you may be able to, thanks to carbon nanotubes (the super-strong material under being considered for the construction of space elevators). Researchers have found that sheets of carbon nanotubes produce high-quality, audible sound when heated with infrared lasers. Just think: A stereo system built into the walls of your home, or the interior of your car, that produces excellent audio without wires or cables.
The accompanying photo shows an electron microscope image of a carbon nanotube "forest" being stretched into sheets. The "forest" (left) is comprised of millions of vertically aligned nanotubes. When the edge of the forest is stretched at one end, the "trees" of carbon nanotubes lean over and grab the neighboring trees, so the entire forest will pull away into a very long, almost transparent sheet of nanotubes (right). Speakers can be made from either the forest or the sheets.
"Speakers made with carbon nanotube sheets are extremely thin, light and almost transparent. They have no moving parts and can be attached to any surface [and] can be concealed in television and computer screens, apartment walls, or in the windows of buildings and cars."
What does this mean for the future? Ubiquitous talking surfaces coating the insides of buildings? Large-scale noise-canceling devices to create quiet areas in loud restaurants?