Graphene Headphones With Superior Sound Quality

When Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov first isolated graphene in 2004, it opened the door for a wave of innovation based on the wonder material’s jaw-dropping properties. Until now, however, it’s fair to say the Nobel-winning discovery has had limited impact for the average consumer. But that could all be about to change.

Wearable electronics, sports equipment and smartphones have all hitched their wagons to the graphene hype train in recent times, playing on the material’s incredible strength and conductivity. In many cases, its inclusion is probably more beneficial to marketing departments than actual end users, although we’re also finally seeing some products that are genuinely tapping into graphene’s enormous potential.

Canadian startup Ora’s GrapheneQ™ (GQ) headphones fall squarely into the latter category. GrapheneQ is the company’s proprietary composite material, used to make the 40mm acoustic drivers that actually deliver sound to the ear. Consisting of more than 95 per cent graphene, it retains most of the material’s mechanical properties, while at the same time being easier to shape and less expensive to produce. Rather than recreating graphene’s single layer of carbon atoms, GQ consists of flakes of graphene deposited in thousands of layers bonded together with proprietary cross-linking agents. It is lightweight and stiff, with a low density, making it an ideal material for loudspeaker membranes.

Without a doubt, the most exciting aspect about the technology is the unique mechanical properties it holds,” says Ari Pinkas, Ora’s co-founder and business lead. “It is very uncommon for such a rigid material to be so lightweight. This rare combination of high stiffness and low density allows for some pretty cool things in the audio world. To start with, acoustic transducers are already notoriously inefficient: less than 10 per cent of the energy that goes into a loudspeaker gets translated to sound, over 90 per cent simply turns into unwanted heat.”

Having an ultra-lightweight speaker membrane results in a considerable power saving, something that’s particularly desirable for wireless consumer electronics such as smartphones, portable speakers and Bluetooth headphones.

The fact that GrapheneQ is so lightweight means that it takes considerably less energy to move than other materials,” said Pinkas. “More concretely, Ora has observed up to a 70 per cent extension in the battery life of an audio dedicated device when doing physical A/B comparison measurements replacing a loudspeaker’s original membrane with a GrapheneQ cone.”