Invention may do for sound what laser did for light
'It's doing something ... completely impossible'
December 2, 1997
Web posted at: 9:52 p.m. EST (0252
From CNN Correspondent Jim Hill
SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- A researcher says he has done
something "completely impossible" by harnessing the power of sound, and
that eventually it will be available in everything from home appliances
to industrial compressors.
Lucas says he made a radical discovery while working at the Los Alamos
National Laboratory in New
Mexico that enables him to create more energy through sound waves than
was ever thought possible.
"It's not an incremental improvement in an existing
technology," Lucas says, "it's suddenly doing something which before was
Scientists have long known that sound is composed
of pulsing waves
of energy, but it was considered useless as a power source because at high
levels sound waves distort into shock waves.
An example is the way sound distorts on a stereo
or radio speakers when turned up too loud.
But Lucas discovered that by sending sound waves
through empty containers of various shapes, the shock waves were eliminated.
"Once you've done that," he says, "you can add all
the energy, create all the pressure, and deliver all the power that you
Lucas calls his invention Resonant Macrosonic Synthesis
He has used it to power such things as a gas compressor,
but believes there is so much potential that he compares what he has done
with sound to what the laser has done with light.
His company, Macrosonix, is working on sound wave
compressors which might one day do everything from cool refrigerators and
air conditioners in the home to running compressors in factories and on
The beauty of a sound-wave compressor is that it
would do what a compressor does, but without the moving parts required
in conventional piston technology.
Mechanical engineering professor Mark
Hamilton, who has followed Lucas' work, says, "I don't think the idea
struck people that you could use sound waves to do, say, pumping that could
be used on a commercial scale. And I think that was the innovative part
of the idea here."
Macrosonix researchers say they also hope to use
sound to create clean electric power generators, replacing any number of
machines with the technology of an empty cavity.