Multi-Physics Simulation of Ultra-Lightweight Carbon Nanotube Speakers

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Carbon Nanotube (CNT) thin film speakers produce sound with the thermoacoustic effect. Alternating current passes through the low heat capacity CNT thin film changing the surface temperature rapidly. CNT thin film does not vibrate; instead it heats and cools the air adjacent to the film, creating sound pressure waves. These speakers are inexpensive, transparent, stretchable, flexible, magnet-free, and lightweight. Because of their novelty, developing a model and better understanding the performance of CNT speakers is useful in technology development in applications that require ultra-lightweight sub-systems. The automotive industry is a prime example of where these speakers can be enabling technology for innovative new component design. Developing a multi-physics (Electrical-Thermal-Acoustical) FEA model, for planar CNT speakers is studied in this paper. The temperature variation on the CNT thin film is obtained by applying alternating electrical current to the CNT film. The surface temperature variation is then used to simulate the pressure distribution in the open medium. To validate the model, the results of simulation are compared to the experimental data and traditional lumped-parameter models. From the simulation results, the frequency response and directivity patterns for the CNT speakers are shown. The effects of thin film surface area and material properties of the medium are also discussed with respect to the output sound power.

Publisher's Statement

Copyright © 2017 SAE International and Copyright © 2017 Institute of Noise Control Engineering. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

SAE Technical Papers