ECE professor Ivan Djordjevic is serving as a senior researcher for the University of Arizona's New Frontiers of Sound Science and Technology Center. The National Science Foundation has granted UA $30 million over five years to establish a new NSF Science and Technology Center that will exploit the properties of sound in ways that could vastly improve computing, telecommunications and sensing. Applications could include reaching quantum-like computing speeds, reducing the power usage of smartphones, and sensing changes in aging infrastructure or the natural environment due to climate change.
"Scientific discovery is the engine that drives human progress and underlies all of the technologies that we benefit from today," said NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "NSF's Science and Technology Centers enable our most creative scientists and engineers to open new vistas of scientific inquiry and make the discoveries that will keep the U.S. in the forefront of scientific discovery.”
To investigate sound through a topological acoustics lens, scientists form a vector by using all of the points in space that a sound travels through as graph points on the Hilbert Space. The angle of this amplitude vector is known as the geometric phase and provides a visual representation of the geometry of sound.
A simplified example: If a sound is traveling through a room and an object is moved, added or removed, the effect on the sound may not be noticeable when observed through the lens of traditional acoustics, such as frequency. But it could be seen when examined with topological acoustics, because such minor changes alter the geometric phase – that is, they alter the geometry of the sound.
It's essentially supercharging the field of acoustics and allowing researchers to see information they couldn't see before – like putting on a new pair of glasses. Or, better yet, a new pair of hearing aids.
"The remarkable field of topological acoustics could help tackle some of society's biggest challenges, and having our faculty at its forefront will help prepare our students to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "With this center, the University of Arizona is placing itself at the forefront of a growing field and developing a diverse workforce that holds expertise not only in complex research, but in how to apply it to build a better world for all."