What is acoustic engineering?
Acoustic engineering deals with the engineering of sound and vibration. It is also called acoustical engineering. Acoustic engineering involves the measurement, analysis, control, and application of sound and vibration. Although we may be oblivious to the fact, sound and vibration are an integral part of our everyday lives. We are all affected by them in some way or the other, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. An acoustic engineer uses their knowledge of the principles and effects of sound and vibration on the population and our environment to engineer solutions that serve us for the better.
Most often, acoustic engineering deals with the reduction of noise and unwanted vibrations, also known as noise control. The reason this is important is that unwanted noise and vibrations can negatively affect us and our environment. For example, unwanted vibrations passing through a bridge can cause it to weaken and collapse. Unwanted noise can cause us to feel unwell and even cause hearing loss. Engineering products and environments where unwanted noise and vibrations need to be removed are where an acoustic engineer excels.
But acoustical engineering is not just about noise control; the field also covers the positive values of sound, from the use of ultrasound in medicine to the programming of digital sound synthesizers. You can design a concert hall to enhance the sound of an orchestra. Or you can specify a railway station's sound system so that the announcements are intelligible.
We all know how much we appreciate our noise cancellation headphones, the silent reading rooms at libraries, and the concert halls, theatres, and cinemas where the sound has been optimised specifically for those spaces. A well-designed and constructed product or environment can produce a very welcoming experience.
What is musical acoustics?
Musical Instruments are part of our cultural heritage and have been developed over thousands of years. The functioning of musical instruments i.e., sound generation and radiation are of high complexity. Many of the underlying mechanisms are common with the mechanisms found in machinery (e.g., friction bowstring and squealing noise from tram wheels). Musical instruments also offer a deep insight into human perception which can be applied in other areas such as room acoustics or sound design of products.
The course in musical acoustics at Chalmers University of Technology that is a part of the master's programme Sound and vibration
aims to give acousticians a broader view on the sound generation and sound radiation of musical instruments. This is also applicable for traditional engineering problems where sound and vibrations play a significant role.
What is room acoustics?
Room acoustics is the subjective response to voice and music in rooms, methods for calculation of sound propagation, reflection, absorption, and scattering of sound in rooms by reflecting surfaces, measurement, and characterization of sound fields in rooms, and methods for correcting room response. Microphones can pick up sound differently from how humans listen to it.
In the course, room acoustics, at Chalmers University of Technology you will gain the necessary skills to handle simple room acoustical problems of small and large rooms both for industrial noise problems and for rooms used for voice and music. It will be a starting point for anyone interested in a career in-room acoustical consulting.
What does an acoustic engineer do?
An acoustic engineer tries to control the properties of sound and vibration for the benefit of society. Since sound and vibrations can affect people, the environment and society both positively and negatively, acoustic engineers work to improve the sound environment around us.
Sound and vibrations are everywhere and therefore acoustic engineers can be involved in many kinds of areas and projects, even those that may not have obvious connections to acoustics. Therefore, acoustic engineers can be found working in various sectors such as architecture, construction, entertainment, manufacturing, transportation and more.
Regardless of the sector, acoustic engineers aim to do two things:
- Reduce noise and unwanted vibrations because this can lead to a deterioration of physical structures, product performance and durability, environment, and experience.
- Improve sound quality and where necessary, amplify the right kind of sound and vibrations to promote a better sound environment.
For example, bridges may be engineered to reduce unwanted vibrations and thus avoid a bridge collapse whereas microphones can be engineered to record sound with better quality and speakers may be engineered to produce higher quality sound output. Airplanes can be designed to have lesser noise and design concert halls for better experiences. We can create better hearing aids and build roads that dampen vibrations so that our vehicles can travel better. There are many ways in which acoustic engineers can improve our world.
Where an acoustic engineer works depends on what kind of acoustics they are working with i.e., interior acoustics or exterior acoustics. Interior acoustics deals with the acoustics inside buildings and therefore involve aspects such as room acoustics. Whereas exterior acoustics deals with open spaces such as arenas, stadiums, urban spaces (traffic noise) and so on.
What background do I need to study acoustic engineering?
Acoustics being a interdisciplinary field means that students come from many diverse backgrounds. Knowledge in the field is important for many professional engineers and architects, but also for professionals from other faculties, such as physicians, psychologists, biologists, oceanographers, or media professionals.
However, you are eligible to apply to the master’s programme Sound and vibration
at Chalmers University of Technology if you have a bachelor's degree in Science, Engineering, Technology or Architecture.
How to become an acoustic engineer in Sweden?
Since you are on this page, you can obviously become an acoustic engineer by finishing a master's degree in Sound and vibration from Chalmers University Technology. But becoming an acoustic engineer in Sweden would require you to have studied the principles of sound and vibration and how they can be controlled.
Depending on which field(s) you wish to apply your knowledge of sound and vibration in, you may choose to study subjects such as applied mechanics, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, structural engineering, mobility engineering, biomedical engineering or even architecture. There are several courses both at Chalmers and other universities which offer you the possibility of building a career within the acoustic engineering-field.
Degrees and Courses for Acoustic Engineering at Chalmers
To become an acoustic engineer, you can study the master’s programme Sound and vibration
for two years at Chalmers University of Technology. This will lead to a Master of Science (MSc) degree. During each year, students can earn 60 credits (ECTS) and complete the programme by accumulating a total of 120 credits. You must take some compulsory courses during your studies, but also choose among several courses. Below you can get an insight of what the aims of some of the compulsory courses are.
The course Introduction to Audio technology and acoustics
is essential to modern society. This demands knowledge about the basics of sound propagation, the behaviour of sound in rooms, properties of sound absorbers, the need for wall transmission loss, etc. It also concerns communications requirements such as voice recognition and mobile phones in which engineers need to deal with communication systems. The knowledge is also important for sound and design of products and sound environments in our daily life.
Technical acoustics is a course that will give you an in-depth knowledge about structure-borne sound and its control. The course focuses on the prediction and control of sound propagation in structures and the radiation of sound from structures. If you intend to focus on noise control engineering, this course is recommended.
You will gain an understanding of acoustical measurement methods and the concept associated with these methods in the course Sound and vibration measurements.
The Individual Preparation course provides the relevant skills in mathematics, signal processing, and programming techniques. The course has a strong focus on working in groups and supports active learning.
The research facilities in Acoustic engineering at Chalmers University of Technology support researchers in their contribution to a sustainable built environment and infrastructure as well as European industry in the development of products and services with appropriate sound and vibration properties.
The laboratories consist of a teaching laboratory, an anechoic chamber, a sound insulation suite (comprised of four reverberation chambers), a test hall, and a laboratory space for vibroacoustic research. There is also a psychoacoustics and infrasonics & low frequency laboratory. It is located in a hemi-unechoic chamber for psychoacoustic testing.
Video – Watch a tour of the facilities in the department
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