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Optical Microphone

Using a CCD as microphone pickup
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(+3, -2)
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A light shines through a gradiated lens onto a suspended, super thin reflective diaphragm. This reflected image hits a CCD sensor. The CCD output goes to a computer for analysis.

The diaphragm could be varied in thickness, possibly leading to superior wide range frequency response.

Rather than a single waveform from a traditional mic, many more vibrational variances are picked up as an 'image' and digitally processed. DSP chips are used for processing in self contained units (drop-in replacements for current microphones), and/or inexpensive versions are available where the CCD output goes a tv card for processing on a host PC.

Traditional video editors can be used to 'see' and manipulate the sound. Existing visual filters (darken/lighten, enhance edges, etc.) can be applied with new, interesting results when output as sound.

SpookyFish, Apr 17 2005

The Microflown http://www.microflown.com/
Recent advance in mic. technology [csea, Apr 18 2005]

A Simple Optical Microphone http://www.acoustic.../137th/neihoff.html
The optical microphone transfers the oscillation of its diaphragm to a beam of light, a process that does not involve any electrical signal. It is only later in the conversion process that a photodetector transforms the light into an electrical current. [omegatron, Dec 22 2008]


       In practice, is this much different than the optical sound used for film, particularly 16mm distribution?   

       Possibly legend: The Soviets were once caught using the windows of the Pentagon as microphone diagrams. They were bouncing IR lasers off of the window surfaces and reading the modulation in the reflected beam as audio.
bristolz, Apr 17 2005

       How were they caught?

Wow, that sounds like a setup for a punchline. Any takers?
AfroAssault, Apr 17 2005

       I like the underlying idea of an optical mike but I think that some of the details need working through. Although recorded sound usually takes up less space than recorded video, it does need a faster sample rate. If you sampled at the speed that video is recorded, you'd lose all but the low frequency sounds. Do a google for the words "Nyquist Frequency" for a bit more information.
st3f, Apr 17 2005

       I am aware of the laser reflection audio pickup techniquie (shhhh, don't talk to my ex girlfriend). I was thinking of this more as a higher fidelity mic, not for spying.   

       st3f makes a great point though, the sampling rate needs to be taken into careful consideration -- I didn't think through that aspect far enough. For my method, each 'pixel' of audio would need to be processed -- a full 'video' frame sampled at only 60 fps wouldn't be sufficient.
SpookyFish, Apr 18 2005

       I haven't double checked, but I think a CCD effectively integrates the intensity of light. When sampled at 60 fps, it gives the result of the total illumination over the last 1/60th of a second.   

       If the illumination could be distributed over the CCD in a raster-like way, with minor 'Y' variations corresponding to the signal, could it work?   

       Each sample would then contain many horizontal trace lines, and each line would look like an audio waveform.   

       On another track; if a laser beam was bounced off a 'microphone mirror' and subsequently bounced off the surfaces of two opposing parallel mirrors, then the beam would have the angle doubled each time (like an amplification).
Ling, Apr 18 2005

       Though it's not optical, you might want to check out the Microflown [link].   

       As well as the frequency response issue, any optical sensor using a CCD element would have to contend with signal-to-noise issues. Typical CCD elements have SNR of around 50dB. Quality microphones require up to 130dB SNR, pretty hard to achieve.
csea, Apr 18 2005

       The CCD SNR ratio is for direct measurement of intensity of light, and not for measurements that depend on position of the light?   

       Interesting link. I never came across one before.
Ling, Apr 19 2005

       [Ling], you are right, but I think positional measurement techniques would also be hard to achieve due to inaccuracies in the optical path. Could a sufficiently large (# of elements) and small (for practicality) CCD show linearity to one part in 2^16 or 2^20? I don't know.
csea, Apr 19 2005

       I could take a guess, I suppose, and reason that 40,000 samples per second divided by 1024 horizontal pixels divided by 60 CCD samples per second = 0.6, so (less than) only one horizontal scan line would be needed per frame (imagine the sound waveform is recorded as a wavy line across the frame). In the Y direction, there are 2048 pixels (portrait). This is 2^11. Not enough resolution, so you are right.
Ling, Apr 19 2005

       1. What extra information do you think you're going to get by measuring more than one point on the diaphragm?   

       2. Video sensors operate around 60 samples per second. Audio requires 40,000 samples per second. Not sure how you expect to deal with that.   

       A better idea would be an array of photodiodes.
omegatron, Dec 22 2008

       Maybe, multiple see-thru diaphragms with different reference grids/patterns on each to give more spatial optical information .
wjt, Dec 22 2008

       Still, if the end result isn't better than any existing invention (laser mic (yes, they do exist), regular mics, etc) in some way, then what's the point?
Spacecoyote, Dec 22 2008

       Why bother with the diaphragm? Sound is a compression wave, and hence a density wave in air. If you pass a laser beam through the air, it should be deflected by the sound alone.   

       Of course, the effects would be negligible, but there's an easy fix: just bounce the beam back and forth between two very-nearly-parallel mirrors a few tens of thousands of times, so that the pressure waves passing through the intervening air have a much greater cumulative effect.   

       Hey presto, a microphone with zero moving mass.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 22 2008

       [MB] I had that very same thought about 35 years ago after reading about Schlieren photography (and the thing about the Soviets and lasers and windows, and carved eagles and microwaves and resonant cavities).
Sadly, at the time, I could afford none of the equipment.
And I didn't really understand the science.
But I was ready to give it a go. But the fools just wouldn't listen.

//a microphone with zero moving mass// <pedant mode> but of course, air weighs about 1.25 kg/ m^3 </pm>
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Dec 22 2008

       <uber pedant mode> But of course, air has a /density/ of about 1.25kg/m^3 </upm>
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Dec 22 2008

       You know, you might be on to something here:   

       You might be able to compensate for the super-low sampling rate by making the diaphragm into a wedge of carefully controlled, varying thickness. This way, different parts of the diaphragm will respond to different frequencies, performing a physical Fourier transform for you (this is similar to how the ear works, I think).
cowtamer, Dec 22 2008


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