Researchers from Harvard University have developed an audio speaker system that is totally gel-based making it possible for electrical charges to be carried by ions instead of electrons.

The transparent speaker is made up of a thin sheet of rubber that is nestled between two layers of saltwater gel. The sound from the speaker is created when a high-voltage signal runs across the surfaces and all throughout the layers which then forces rubber contraction and vibration. The end result is sounds that span the whole audible spectrum.

The achievement clearly demonstrates that ion-carried electrical charges as opposed to the ones carried by electrons could come really handy with fast-moving and high-voltage devices.

There are several advantages of using ionic conductors. One is their ability to be stretched further beyond their standard size without any signs of resistance Another is their capacity to be transparent which lead to an easier incorporation to the biological systems such as skin or artificial muscle because of the gels’ biocompatible nature.

Christoph Keplinger, co-lead author of the project, added that engineered ionic systems can gain several functions that the human body has such as sensing, signal conducting, and actuating movement. This creates a biological milestone in the soft machine technology.

One of the biggest obstacles that has long plagued the idea of ionic conductivity is the natural tendency of high voltages to produce electrochemical reactions in ionic materials which cause them to burn up. Another is that ions are heavier and larger than electrons which make traveling through a circuit in very high speeds relatively difficult.

The new research and the created gel-based audio speakers have been able to resolve these issues, opening more doors to potential useful ventures such as robotics, adaptive optics, and bio-medical devices. Since the system requires less power, it can be integrated anywhere that needs a transparent layer by deforming itself when responding to electrical stimuli.

Here is a video demonstration from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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