Acoustics research studies all aspects of sound (audible and inaudible) including: generation, propagation, detection and even perception. Acoustics offers challenges that are fundamental in nature and also broad in application. At the human scale, acoustics and vibration are closely linked and a vast amount of research is aimed at reducing vibrations in order to reduce the associated noise. At smaller scales, vibrations can be utilized in measurement devices. Acoustics and vibration research carried out in the Mechanical Engineering Department can be broadly divided into the following categories.
- Aeroacoustics: This is the study of sound in the presence of an external flow and includes: sound generated by flow (e.g., noise from a jet engine), or sound production from fluid-structure interaction (e.g. sound generated by wind turbine, noise generated inside a jet engine, or sound generated by the vocal tract), or the interaction of sound with flow (sound propagation in a windy atmosphere).
- Biomedical Acoustics: Investigates the application of acoustics, typically ultrasonic, for biomedical applications both diagnostic and therapeutic. Diagnostic ultrasound applications include imaging of structures in the body and developing ultrasound specific contrast agents that can be targeted to specific disease site. Therapeutic uses of ultrasound include shock waves to fragment kidney stones and the use of focused ultrasound to heat and destroy tissue.
- Physical Acoustics: The study of the fundamental physical processes involved in the propagation of sound waves and the used of sound waves to study the physical properties of matter. Physical acoustics topics studied in ME include the interaction of sound with bubbles and the interaction of sound with light.
- Vibrations in the built world: The study of vibrations in complex structures and the deployment and characterization of damping materials such as advanced composites. The utilization of oscillatory motions for energy capture.
- Vibrations in the natural world: The investigation of how vibrational cues trigger biological processes such as escape hatching of the red-eyed tree frog from predators.
- Vibrations at the MEMS scale: The investigate and utilization of the vibration of high-Q resonators that are essential to cell phone and lab-on-chip technologies.