US: AMBIT, part of Soundwave Research Laboratories, recently won fresh plaudits for its work in the vibrant nanotechnology sector. It's a development that has considerable implications for sister company, the increasingly successful ribbon microphone supplier Crowley and Tripp, writes David Davies.
Continuing work by AMBIT in this area recently received recognition on a poll of the Top Ten most important nanotech patents of last year. Two patents awarded during 2006 were selected by Blaise Mouttet on his TinyTechIP blog, including one for nanotubes used in nano-actuators, and another basic patent for nanotubes used in light sensors and communication devices.
As Soundwave Research Laboratories' president, Bob Crowley, tells PSN-e, the ongoing research could ultimately have a major impact on the audio side of the business. "The way sound interacts with materials, including microphones, is being completely rethought with the advent of new materials based on nanostructures," he explains. "Configuring materials like ribbon elements to be much more sensitive to sound vibrations is what we are after, but doing so while maintaining incredible strength, durability and acoustic performance is a balancing act - and also an art."
The first batch of prototypes to take account of this new approach are already out on field tests, although it could be a while before the team signs off on a commercially available incarnation. "It is sobering to realise that the first Crowley and Tripp nano-enabled ribbon microphone cost over US$120,000 to produce!"
Meanwhile, Crowley is more than happy with the performance of the existing ribbon microphone lines, which include the Naked Eye, the Proscenium and the Studio Vocalist. "As of February 14th, 2007, we are completely out of certain mics and scaling up production - very carefully, I might add - to keep up," he says, adding that "at least one more new model" will be introduced this year.
As an aside, Hugh Tripp and Bob Crowley remain heavily involved in medical research. "The discipline and precision needed for medical devices goes into Crowley and Tripp microphones," says Crowley, whose 100-plus patents are dominated by medical innovations. "The science of materials, and how sound interacts with the human body are both key to improving how sound is heard and understood, and to the experience of sound through our microphones."