It may not look like it, but this translucent, almost holographic material Susumu Miura is holding up could change the way cars sound like in the future.

Miura is an advanced material engineer at Nissan, and he has helped develop a new acoustic meta-material that is being showcased by the Japanese carmaker at the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It is comprised of a lattice structure covered by plastic film and works by reflecting wide frequency band noise (500 to 1,200 hertz), such as road and wind noise – limiting their transmission into the cabin.

The result is a material said to provide the same level of sound deadening as the rubber boards traditionally used as insulation, but at one-fourth the weight. Its simple structure also allows cost competitiveness to be on par or possibly better than that of existing materials, meaning that it can be applied in vehicles where the use of regular sound insulation is limited due to cost or weight.

The development of this meta-material is particularly significant as the world relies more and more on electric propulsion. The absence of a loud internal combustion engine makes other noises in a car even more prominent, which currently can only be countered by adding heavy insulation – not good when you’re chasing every last mile of range on your electric vehicle.

As such, the use of the new material can significantly improve the comfort of an EV, whilst also helping it deliver greater energy efficiency. Nissan began its research on meta-material technology in 2008, at a time when the tech was used in high-sensitivity antennas for electromagnetic wave research. It worked to extend the application of said tech to include sound waves, leading to the invention of the acoustic meta-material.

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