microphone that sees

Cleanrooms are used for the creation of all sorts of products ranging from televisions to medicines.  One of the most unique products produced in a cleanroom is a new microphone that “sees” sound.  A company named SINTEF has developed some great technology to greatly improve microphones.


SINTEF’s microphones include a tiny optical position sensor which is about a millimeter in diameter.  This optical sensor allows for a precise measurement of small movements and very soft sounds.  In a practical sense, if this microphone were used in a video conference it would dramatically improve how the sound was picked up.  Most conference- type microphones have problems picking up the sound of a person speaking without also picking up the other sounds in the room.  SINTEF’s microphone will be able to better filter out those sounds by using the optical sensor to pick up pressure waves produced by sounds.


“In principle, a microphone acts like a drum. You have a membrane that vibrates when it is impacted by a sound – which is just a series of pressure waves. And then you have a reference surface in the background. The distance between these two surfaces registers the sound. We do this by measuring light waves from a microscopically small laser, so we can say that the sensor in microphones actually sees the sound,” said ICT researcher Matthieu Lacolle.


Due to the sensitive nature of the production of the electronics in the microphone, it needs to be made in a cleanroom.  A single grain of dust could ruin the electronics, and the cleanroom is equipped with air filtration and vibration damping.


You can read more about SINTEF here.