Since developing ways to acquire graphene — a one-atom thick sheet of carbon — in significant quantities, research around the material has become the next big thing, and scientists at Berkeley have now detailed a new application for the material: earphones. "Graphene is an ideal building material for small, efficient, high-quality broad-band audio speakers," researchers Qin Zhou and A. Zettl write in their report. The team compares graphene to Sennheiser's MX-400 earbuds, and notes that the material performs comparably even without a specialized design.

Graphene excels as a speaker because its small mass allows the air around it to mitigate its movement — it doesn't require the expensive and energy inefficient damping that traditional speakers need. The size and frequency range of graphene makes the material ideal for small, earbud-like speakers. But the team also notes that the setup could work as a microphone with "outstanding response characteristics." The development of graphene as a sound-emitting device was first published by a different team last year, but this is the first application of that principle.