Flat, Flexible Loudspeaker Under 0.25mm Thick

British engineers have created speakers that are only .25mm thick using a flexible laminate with layers of conducting and insulating materials.

Given that today is April Fool's Day, it's hard to not be a little cautious when reading online material. Even our very own Tuan fell victim to the April Fool's epidemic, throwing up a silly notion that this news outlet would focus primarily on Apple coverage. With that in mind, some of the external articles published today by other news outlets should be approached with caution although the whole April Fool's bit is all in good humor.

On that note, Register Hardware posted a little article about British engineers creating an extremely thin and flexible speaker. Called the Flat, Flexible Loudspeaker (FFL), the device is less than 0.25mm thick. That sounds a bit incredible to say the least, perhaps even suspicious given the date, however the device supposedly passes an electrical signal through a flexible laminate--a thin, clear material consisted of numerous layers containing conducting and insulating polymers. Thus, the sound emanates from the entire surface--moving air as a bulk mass--rather than from one central point like traditional speakers; this provides a more evenly distributed sound. Simply put, the speaker laminate operates as a perfect piston resonator.

Is this thing for real? For a while, that was the question, however as the morning rolled on, more media outlets began to cover the paper-thin speaker, even the BBC News. Perhaps, then, this speaker invention was indeed for real. Evidently, after finding the original source, the FFL originated at the Warwick University, created by a team of engineers led by Dr. Duncan Billson and Professor David Hutchins. A spin-off audio company--Warwick Audio Technology--came into being to actually manufacture and sell the FFL speakers for a later date.

"We believe this is a truly innovative technology. Its size and flexibility means it can be used in all sorts of areas where space is at a premium," said Warwich Audio Technology CEO Steve Couchman.

Will the new invention change the face of home theater systems? It's quite possible. Couchman described several scenarios actually, one illustrating the speakers mounted into a tiled ceiling. Other implications could utilize the speakers like a printed poster hanging on a wall, or a strange design wrapped around a lampshade. The speakers could also be useful in PA systems. In fact, Warwick Audio Technology has already received interest from audio-visual companies and car manufacturers, with the latter particularly interested in how the paper-thin speaker can direct sound.

"The sound produced by FFLs can be directed straight at its intended audience," he told the BBC. "The sound, volume, and quality does not deteriorate as it does in conventional speakers which means that public announcements in passenger terminals could be clearer, crisper and easier to hear."

The company said that the flexible speakers will be commercially available by the end of the year. Will the FFL replace traditional speakers used today? Couchman believes so, and he may be right: look at how LCD screens have replaced the clunky CRT monitors of day long ago. Still, it would be interesting to see a test sample of the FFL, and how it would endure constant use by the average, family-oriented household. Even though the speakers are incredibly thin, delicate technology such as the FFL would seem to be more prone to damage than current traditional speakers. Then again, maybe not.

So is this an April Fool's joke? Unless the Warwick University has a few clever pranksters taking over it website, this new device is certainly for real, and heading our way by the end of the year.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more.