Loughborough research underpins innovative sound control technologies – tackling global noise pollution
Innovation and benefits
Research initiated in Loughborough’s Department of Physics, in 2007, underpins Sonobex Limited – world leaders in innovative noise control.
The novel noise reduction technology draws on a new area of physics – acoustic metamaterials which control, direct and manipulate sound waves.
The company has developed a revolutionary range of products – NoiseTrap® acoustic panels – that enable far greater acoustic performance than traditional noise control measures and can be used in a range of settings including transformer substations in residential areas, railway bridges, crane control cabins, factories and power stations.
Early work – starting with two PhD studentships – was funded by several sources including EPSRC, the Technology Strategy Board (now, Innovate UK) and ERDF.
One of the PhD students, Dr Daniel Elford, then received a University Innovation Fellowship followed by a RAEng fellowship to concentrate on the development of the commercial proposition.
Venture capital funding was raised, and Sonobex was founded in 2012. In 2014, the company completed its first major investment round developing further innovative noise control solutions for low frequency noise problems.
In January 2017, Sonobex was acquired by the Dutch engineering and manufacturing company, Merford, specialists in noise control. The acquisition greatly enhances Merford’s R&D capabilities whilst Sonobex benefits from greater scope to invest in innovation and product development.
The success of the company is built on the core intellectual property originally developed at the University which has been extended to four granted patents and three pending patent applications, covering over 20 territories.
To date, Sonobex has continued to invest in the research and development of acoustic metamaterials based technologies, spending £1.15 million on eligible R&D expenditure to further develop the base IP.
The World Health Organization has, for many years, highlighted the health risks posed by environmental noise spanning tinnitus and hearing loss, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, the cognitive impairment of children, and sleep disturbance – not to mention the negative impacts on our mental and social well-being.
Sonobex’s award-winning patented technology mitigates the impact of low frequency noise in both industrial and domestic settings and has been installed in locations worldwide.
More recently, the company joined the battle against Covid-19, supporting the NHS by redeploying its 3D printing equipment to manufacture protective face visor equipment for key frontline workers.
The PhD students who developed the original technology hold key positions within the company – Dr Daniel Elford is Chief Technology Officer whilst Dr Luke Chalmers is Engineering Director. In addition, the company employs a number of Loughborough graduates including Acoustic Design Engineer, Dr Richard Wilson.
Professor Feodor Kusmartsev and Dr Gerry Swallowe – who supervised Drs Elford and Chalmers – were both Sonobex co-founders and amassed a wealth of knowledge around the real-world applications of academic research.
Sonobex’s success cements the University’s reputation as world-leader in this field. Whilst realising its commercial potential, the technology featured in a number of high impact journals, including the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
The real-world impact of the innovation has underpinned the submission of a REF case study which is expected to secure important research funding for the School of Science.
With the continued commercial success of Sonobex, the founders, the School and the University all stand to gain financially due to the deal struck with the company and the revenue sharing agreement with the inventors.