Empa
Textile designer Annette Douglas at work in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
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updated 5/4/2011 5:43:00 PM ET 2011-05-04T21:43:00

Finding a quiet place to work or relax doesn’t have to mean going to a spa or installing heavy-duty insulation. Thanks to a new material, simply closing the curtains could do the trick.

These new curtains, which are lightweight and translucent, were first conceived of on a computer, where the researchers mathematically developed the perfect recipe of yarns and weave pattern needed to create a sound-absorbing material. They created several virtual materials, and tested them for sound-quenching properties using a computer model.

"We developed a computer model which simulates the micro- and the macroscopic, acoustical and mechanical behavior of the fabric," said Reto Pieren, a researcher at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, who helped develop the curtains.

What they came up with is a material made out of four to five different yarns with a proprietary weave pattern that absorbs up to five times more sound than a typical translucent curtain. The material works just like the soundproofing foam you might find in a music studio: The air in the material causes the sound waves to slow, creating friction that converts the sound into heat.

The researchers suspect that because of its design, the curtains could be used for sound absorption in offices, restaurants, hotel lobbies, living rooms and elsewhere.

The new curtains, sold in a collection called Silent Space, can be purchased from Annette Douglas, the designer of the material.

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