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Acoustiblok/Thermablok

Acoustiblok is an interesting product for blocking sound, it works by dissipating sound energy through friction within the sound barrier materiel [1]. They sell it in varieties that are designed for use within walls and for use as fences. As it isn’t solid it won’t reflect sound so it can be used to line the walls to stop sound being reflected back at you. It’s design is based on NASA research.

The web site claims that a 3mm sheet of Acoustiblok gives a greater noise reduction than 12 inches (30.7cm) of poured concrete. I am a little dubious about that claim as I’ve read a report of someone using three layers of Acoustiblok to make a quiet room for recording music (and to be used as a play-room for an Autistic child). I find it difficult to imagine someone needing a meter of concrete to stop any sort of noise that they might encounter in a residential area so the fact that someone needed three layers of Acoustiblok is an indication that it might not be quite as good as they claim (although there is the possibility that Acoustiblok was badly installed). I wonder whether the claims about concrete concern particular frequencies. The technical specifications and product comparisons page [2] shows that Acoustiblok is least effective at 130Hz where it only reduces noise by 12dB and that it’s effectiveness increases to 38dB at 5KHz. So perhaps a concrete wall to stop low frequencies and Acoustiblok to stop high frequencies would be the best solution.

The Australian distributor for Acoustiblok is based in Brisbane [3].

The same company also sells Thermablok [4] which is the first aerogel based insulation that I’ve seen being advertised for commercial sale. I guess that it must be rather expensive as they are mostly advertising it for use as thin strips to cover stud faces (steel studs conduct heat well and can cause a lot of heat loss). A note in their FAQ says that it’s available in rolls for insulating entire walls or floors. The FAQ also indicates that they sell samples suitable for science classes. They are also apparently looking for retailers, it would be nice if someone wanted to sell this in Australia.

11 comments to Acoustiblok/Thermablok

  • neonsignal

    Though to be fair, virtually all sound absorbers work by “dissipating sound energy through friction within the sound barrier material”.

    For an exterior surface, I would have thought reflection and scattering would be the dominant factor limiting transmission to the interior; and then you probably want surfaces with high density (and an absorbing filler).

  • anon

    “””∗Made in U.S.A. from all U.S. materials (Like All Our Products)”””

    Meh, nationalism. So sad.

  • etbe

    neonsignal: If you want to insulate two rooms in your house from each other then you probably don’t want the sound reflected. Also if you want to keep sound out of your house you probably don’t want it reflected in your yard. It’s a pity that they don’t seem to make sound reducing material that can be used for the outside of a house.

    While a lot of sound dampening materials would work by converting the energy into heat doing so without vibrating (reflecting sound or making harmonics) isn’t so easy to do. It seems that most attempts to provide sound insulation involve thick rubber, concrete, or just extra layers of material that is designed for thermal insulation.

    anon: While not so blatant, there is a lot of nationalistic marketing in most countries. It is good for the local economy to buy local products so it makes sense to advertise to people who make such purchasing decisions.

    I think that the problem is a lack of subtlety, not nationalism.

  • Steven C

    Curious why you think this firm is worth promoting via Planet Debian with 4 links in.

    The ‘design is based on NASA research’ claim is a corker. You could probably market tinfoil with such a vague, stupid claim.

    And yes the other claims are very dubious. I would think most materials that absorb sound any way (gypsum wallboard, mineral wool in air cavities, curtains, carpet, eggboxes…) do so through ‘friction within the [...] material’ (dissipating the energy as heat). Unless it is reactive and produces antisound or something. The rest would either pass through or reflect back.

    At the low end, 130 Hz is precisely why you’d want the 12 inches of concrete; here the density and thickness of the material matter most. Also you’d need to consider the floor and ceiling, or else structure-borne vibration would still carry the noise through to the next room/floor no matter how good the walls are.

  • etbe

    Steven: The company’s web site has the NASA logo and an award for being one of the top 50 NASA spinoff companies. I don’t think that anyone could market regular tinfoil and get such an award – but given the number of developments in metallurgy that originated in NASA it wouldn’t surprise me if NASA research was involved in tinfoil in some way.

    Anti-sound is possible, see the posts I’ve written about noise-cancelling headphones.

    The people who read Planet Debian include a lot of people who are interested in new technology for it’s own sake and a lot of people on the Autism Spectrum who have greater sensitivity to noise than the general population. Not that I need an excuse, Planet Debian is specifically about anything that Debian Developers want to write.

  • Steven C

    I do love the off-topic stuff on Planet Debian, including this, just that it looks more like an advert / SEO page at first glance.

  • etbe

    How can you write a positive review that can’t be interpreted as an advert?

  • Nick J

    I’d like to know how to get a small quantity that can be used for lining a cupboard with an HP microserver in it, to cut down on noise from moving parts (fans and disks). Or even lining the inside of my computer case (I’ve come to see computer noise as increasingly annoying), especially since at 3 mm thickness it won’t take up much space. Ideally they’d sell it by the metre through Bunnings or other hardware stores, although it sounds like they’re not targetting a mass market product like that, which makes it sound like it’s going to be rather pricey.

  • etbe

    Nick: In the installation instructions they emphasise the importance of making an airtight seal. As Acoustiblok is documented as having some thermal insulation properties this could be a problem when running a server in a confined space. A quick Google search suggests that a HP Microserver can draw up to 72W, so even if the cupboard was reasonably large you might have thermal problems unless you had some sort of air vent.

    Of course there are solutions to this. You could have a server cupboard vented into a different room or have air pumped through a rubber hose to cool it.

    The smallest roll of Acoustiblok mentioned on the web site is 30 feet long and appears to be 5 feet wide which is almost 14m^2. Lining the inside of a computer would probably take about 1m^2 and a cupboard could take 4m^2. So it sounds like you could use a good portion of a 30 foot roll.

    But having it sold at Bunnings would be a good thing. I’d certainly buy some from Bunnings!

  • Pierpaolo Pilla

    Hi Russell
    don’t be fooled by the marketing spin. the key is not the material, but minimising gaps and acoustic bridges for higher performances (not always straightforward).
    I would discourage DIY using this material, the risk of spending lots of money, of spilling lots of sweat and in the end having a marginal improvement is too high.
    Happy to give free hints if sent pics, plans, etc. or happy to pass the contact of some ex-colleagues in Australia on request.
    All the best
    Pier

  • Pierpaolo Pilla

    forgot to add: I’m an acoustician ;-)