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'Noise quenching' curtains open window to quiet

Swiss company Empa has developed curtains that "swallow" noise. Their use could protect us from an endless supply of annoying sounds.

Empa's new curtains can tell a sunny day to shut up with class. Empa

The Swiss aren't generally a people known for making a lot of noise. That's why they're good at hiding money. So maybe it's not surprising that Empa--a Swiss "interdisciplinary research and services institution"--has introduced lightweight, translucent curtains that absorb sound.

Designed via computer simulations by acoustic scientists and material engineers, the curtains blend sound obstruction and redirection with specialized textile properties to reduce decibels in rooms facing noisy adjoining environments. As Empa puts it, "With a gap of 15 cm between curtain and wall, the new developed curtain--depending on the frequency--absorbs up to five times more sound than typical lightweight curtains."

Sound-absorbing materials already exist, of course, but they don't tend to complement the average living room too well--unless you're into the rubber and foam aesthetic. Empa's curtains are the stuff of scientific conferences and published tech papers right now, but the imagination reels (quietly) at the possibilities when these curtains become widely available around the world. It's fun to envision the situations and environments where the curtains would be most desirable--even mandatory.

If the NFL season is cancelled, I'll need a set of these curtains to protect the world from the biblical onslaught of cursing I plan to unleash upon the world. If there's enough material available, we could drape every window in Charlie Sheen's mansion with the miracle curtains and not tell him--just let him ramble away. If Lady Gaga comes out with any more movies, we could make theater curtains out of the stuff and leave them up until she leaves. We might want to wrap Donald Trump in about 50 yards of the stuff if he plans on pretending he's running for president much longer. Air holes are optional.

Feel free to suggest some of your own uses in the comments section below. Just keep it down while typing.