The chief executive of sound company Metasonics has won a £60,000 Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowship to develop and grow the metamaterials business. It came just before Metasonics was recognised at The SPARKies with the Hard Award for hardware and the Most Innovative use of  Tech.

Dr Mihai Caleap is a Senior Researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bristol and helped develop the first metamaterial technology to dynamically shape and sculpt soundwaves in real-time.

Metasonics, now based at the innovation centre at the University of Sussex, was founded by researchers from the University of Bristol and University of Sussex researchers. The metamaterial they developed gives designers more precise control over sound, from connected home alarm systems to the next generation of health and fitness wearables.

“The concept of acoustic metamaterials has existed in the realm of mathematics and physics for some time now,” said Dr Caleap. “We felt it was timely to consider how they can be designed to meet the demands of real engineering applications and bring them to a technological maturity. We are one of the first companies to move acoustic metamaterials from the academic community to commercialised products.

“The Enterprise Fellowship provides me with a vehicle for translating my research to solve real-world problems. As well as lifetime Enterprise Hub membership, the RAEng support will help me to develop the business skills needed to commercialise research, whilst rapidly driving the development and growth of the company.”

The company showed its technology publicly for the first time at tech show CES 2018 in Las Vega with material that provides a sound-proof ‘invisible window’ that lets in air but not sound to create a sound shield.

The metamaterial can also be used in a car to allow the driver and passengers to listen to different audio simultaneously, without earphones or accessories.

“Traditionally, the technology involved in controlling an acoustic field distribution was marred by bulky and expensive essential equipment, with the costs rapidly becoming restrictive as complexity increased in line with consumer requirements,” said Dr Caleap. “Metasonics’ technology employs acoustic metamaterials, making it much smaller, more portable and flexible. Crucially, these metamaterial filters can be rearranged or reconfigured, meaning that sound can be shifted without having to move its source.”

Metasonics joins Bristol sonics startup Ultrahaptics in winning the Academy fellowship.