By Jared Senseman, Editor in Chief
The Canadian audio company Ora is about to start making waves in the audio industry.
Their new headphones utilize “GrapheneQ,” a graphene-based composite material that has been specifically designed and optimized for use in acoustic transducers.
“The idea came from a conversation one of our founders had with his brother,” said Ari Pinkas, Ora cofounder. “They were out having a beer, and his brother was working on exploiting the electrical properties of graphene inside batteries. They started talking about other properties and they had this eureka moment. They figured out that the mechanical properties of graphene could be the holy grail of properties for speaker membranes.”
It turned out he was right. The company is getting mass production of their graphene speaker membranes ready for the fall, with full headphone production slated for early 2018. The company’s website boasts some pretty impressive product testimonials, which Pinkas attributes to the multiple value propositions that their new GrapheneQ membranes possess.
“There are a few value propositions of graphene which make it different than a typical speaker membrane, with the first being the stiffness of the material,” Pinkas said. “The membrane is the actual part of the speaker that moves to produce sound, and the ideal motion is a pistonic motion, moving back and forth, but the membrane maintains its shape.”
Dr. Sergii Tutashkonko, Ora’s nanotechnology lead, added that the second impressive property of graphene in headphones is the lightness of the material, which has an impact on battery life in wireless devices.
“We did some tests and took some competitor headphone brands and put our material in there and we saw a 70% increase in battery life,” Tutashkonko said. “The material is so light it takes less energy to move back and forth. This is big because speakers are one of the technologies that we still use that are the least efficient.”
Pinkas added that those efficiencies are really desirable to the consumer electronics industry, which is the reason they’re developing a wired and wireless set of headphones.
“The third valuable quality has to do with the fact that the material dissipates heat very effectively, and that’s attracted many major players in the cell phone/laptop/tablet industry,” Pinkas said. “The fact we can dissipate heat means we can create speakers that are much smaller with the same sound quality. This means they’d have more room for the phone to fit a larger battery or different components. Or we could keep it the same size but make it four times louder, which is important because millennials these days watch movies on their phones and tablets.”
Recent studies prove Pinkas’ claim, with a recent Accenture Report stating that a staggering 87% of consumers use a second screen device while watching TV.
“The fourth quality is that we’re strong at high frequencies, which has attracted one of the big AR/VR players,” Pinkas said. “The fact that we’re so strong at the high frequencies, means we can provide more precise localization queues, which means we can provide a more immersive experience. If you want a tiger roaring at 1 cm from your head instead of 1.2 cm from your head, we can provide that level of immersive quality.”
Tutashkonko added that while the company has succeeded with its most recent Kickstarter campaign the real work is just beginning, and the company faces a lot of pressure in the coming months.
“It’s exciting, but there’s a responsibility for us not to screw up,” Tutashkonko said. “If people are disappointed in our product we worry they’ll get a distaste for the graphene industry as a whole, so there’s a lot of pressure.”
Graphene Entrepreneur is a division of the National Graphene Association. The Mission of the NGA is to bring together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies in the United States.
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