Mind & Matter


Translucent Sound-Absorbing Curtain

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Sound-control curtain. Courtesy: Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology


Curtains are typically used to control visual phenomena such as light and view, but a new research effort has generated a curtain whose sole purpose is to control sound. Moreover, the new offering treats light and sound differently.


Textile designer Annette Douglas collaborated with acousticians at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and weavers at Weisbrod-Zurrer AG to create a curtain that performs acoustically while transmitting light. The translucent scrim is five times more sound absorptive than conventional textiles, and also carries a fire rating suitable for commercial interior environments. According to Empa researcher Kurt Eggenschwiler, “Acousticians are pretty astonished when they see the readings we are achieving with the new curtains in the reverberation room. The weighted sound absorption coefficient is between 0.5 and 0.6. In other words, the new textiles ‘quench’ five times more sound than conventional translucent curtains. The new curtain genuinely absorbs sound, noticeably improving the room acoustics—and its design is also very high quality.”




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.