Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor 1

Andrew Barnard

Committee Member 1

James DeClerck

Committee Member 2

Vijaya V. N. Sriram Malladi


The goal of this project was to reduce the overall noise levels emitted by the HVAC components in a vehicle’s cabin. More specifically, the feasibility of achieving this goal using two key technologies was investigated.

The first of these technologies, Active Noise Control (ANC), is a noise attenuation technique that relies on destructive interference that “cancels” unwanted noise. Typically used in situations where physical constraints prevent passive attenuation techniques from being used, ANC is known for its high size-to-effectiveness ratio. This benefit cannot be gained without a cost however; the complexity of ANC systems is significantly higher than their passive counterparts. This is due to the signal processing and actuator designs required. These actuators often take the form of moving-coil loudspeakers which, while effective, are often bulky. Because of this they are difficult to “drop in” to an existing system.

This is where the second technology comes in. Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Thermophones are solid-state speakers that operate by using rapid heat fluctuations to create sound. Called the “thermoacoustic effect,” (TE) the theory of this operating principle dates to the turn of the 20th century. Useful demonstration of TE did not occur until 2008, however, when researchers first developed the first CNT thermophones. The hallmark characteristics of these transducers are their small size and flexible nature. Compared to traditional loudspeakers they have a much smaller form factor and are more versatile in terms of where they can be placed in a cramped system.

The marriage of CNT transducers to ANC technology shows promise in improving the application space and ease of installation of ANC systems. Getting these two to cooperate, however, is not without challenges.

A case study for this union is presented here; the application space being the ducted environment of vehicle HVAC systems.