The Little Startup That Conquered a Giant Noise

The more we pay for a car, the more we expect to cut down on extraneous noise. However, one noise never seems to go away - the air conditioner. Even luxury manufacturers haven't been able to conquer this challenge.

Oded Hermoni
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Oded Hermoni

The more we pay for a car, the more we expect to cut down on extraneous noise. However, one noise never seems to go away - the air conditioner. Even luxury manufacturers haven't been able to conquer this challenge.

However, Israeli startup Silentium has developed a revolutionary, embedded solution - called Silence in a Chip - that may yet do the trick.

Rehovot-based Silentium accomplished this solution in conjunction with researchers at General Motors. The product is the first of its kind to dramatically reduce air conditioner noise and, consequently, the passenger compartment. GM's SUV Yukon is the first vehicle in which the company successfully reduced noise by five decibels in trials.

Normally, companies isolate noises from the compartment through passive means, using strong or thick insulation material, or simply distancing it from the source of the noise.

Silentium, on the other hand, incorporates unique active-noise-control technology, which dramatically improves the quality of noise-emitting products by calibrating energy waves to silence the noise waves.

The system is made up of three components. The first is a microphone, located adjacent to the bellows of the car's noise-generating air conditioner, which continuously samples the noise. The second component is a speaker located at the air vent. Its job is to broadcast sound as identical as possible to the source noise but at the opposite phase, thus dramatically reducing noise in the passenger compartment. The third component is a signal processor, whose primary role is to assess and reconstruct the noise. Silentium developed algorithms creating virtual microphones, enabling the mechanism to suppress the sounds of the air conditioner made at low signals under 1,500 Hertz.

Silentium, founded in 1997, had no easy route to success in Israel's limited car market. CEO Yossi Barath, a former executive at Elbit Systems, eventually turned to GM-UMI CEO Avihu Ben Nun. In turn, Ben Nun found interest among GM researchers, who approved a $250,000 development budget.

Following the trial's success in the Yukon, General Motors will have first rights to install the product, but Silentium will primarily offer its product to air conditioning companies supplying the major automobile makers.

Silentium is also looking beyond its main automobile market, setting its sights on the appliance market - refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers - and the aircraft industry.

The eight-worker company has raised $4 million so far and is now raising an additional $4 million.

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