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Sound power comes of age

Sound power comes of age

Richmond, VA--Pistons, connecting rods, crank shafts, bearings and other mechanical moving parts may go the way of dinosaurs if Tim Lucas, president and CEO of MacroSonix Corportaion has his way. "Resonant Macrosonic Synthesis (RMS) will replace complex machines that have been with us since the industrial revolution," Lucas says. During RMS, sound waves generated in gas produce energy densities thousands of times greater than ever before achieved in the field of acoustics.

Although the concept of using sound waves to transfer energy is not new, high-power commercial applications were limited because of acoustic saturation or the formation of shock waves. Once the inevitable shock wave is hit, additional energy is lost and higher dynamic pressures cannot be produced.

Lucas tackled this problem from the perspective of harmonic wave formation. He viewed the shock wave as the sum of other higher frequency waves, called harmonics. He discovered that for resonant sound waves, the cavity through which the sound waves travel is the most important factor in determining the shape of the wave. By manipulating the acoustic resonator geometry, Lucas generated sound waves capable of carrying high amounts of power without acoustic saturation.

After eight years of development, MacroSonix went public with the technology on December 1, 1997. "People told me to get a real job," says Lucas. "But I knew this would work. One day this was impossible. Today, it's possible."

Lucas claims that applications using RMS will be less expensive to manufacture and operate, be more efficient, and have increased reliability and durability as a result of few moving parts. "Look inside our technology and it is just a simple cavity filled with a gas," says Lucas.

"This works as advertised," notes Mark Hamilton, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. "Whether industry will pick up on this remains to be seen. But it is a solution waiting for a problem."

The first commercial product to hit the market is an acoustic compressor "that eliminates the need for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and promises to be more energy efficient than standard compressors," says Lucas. To generate the sound wave, the entire cavity is oscillated and the motion transfers energy to the gas. The standing wave inside the resonator causes the pressure to oscillate high and low during one acoustic cycle, approximately 2 thousandths of a second. A discharge valve and a suction valve converts this pressure into gas compression and flow.

Suggested spin-off products include spot cooling for microprocessors, process control, process reactors for chemcial and pharmaceutical industries, even power generation. The company receives 20 inquiries a day concerning possible applications. "We are just starting the technology development curve," notes Lucas. "Ours is a primary technology where new technologies will spring from for generations."

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