Lessening Noise Pollution Through Metamaterials

February 11, 2021

Guoliang Huang Portrait

James C. Dowell Professor Guoliang Huang

Those working in open office spaces may someday have a little more privacy, thanks to a new wall partition in the works at Mizzou Engineering. Guoliang Huang, James C. Dowell Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), is researching the best acoustic metamaterials and structure component to create a new, thin, sound-proof multi-functional wall for open office layouts.

“Noise pollution is everywhere. We experience it every day – in the office, in our transportation and more,” he said.

If successful, the material could even improve overall health. Not only do modern office designs offer little privacy, but they can also impact health. This study from 2017 concluded peoples’ overall health lessened when working in an open-plan office space.

With a grant from Steelcase, Inc., Huang is trying to solve the challenge of creating a wall partition with high transmission loss and also high absorption.

Achieving high transmission loss means usually incorporating a hard wall material with added thickness that will prevent sound from traveling through it. On the other hand, achieving high absorption usually means incorporating a soft material like fabrics to prevent echoes within a room.

“We’re using a new concept with metamaterials,” Huang said. “This material is through the structure design and components; not from its chemical component.”

This research provides undergraduate MAE students an opportunity to work alongside Huang in developing this new product. Currently, three undergraduate students are working in his group.

Huang believes this research can lead to many different applications, if the right metamaterials makeup can be created.

“There are many aerospace and civil engineering structures that could use this,” he said. “An engine could be really quiet if we built a cage around it (using metamaterials).”

Prior research conducted by Huang has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research and NASA, along with major companies and industries. He has published more than 130 international journal papers, one book, three chapters in book, and around 100 international conference publications.