Rhona Togher, Eimear O'Carroll
Reducing noise with an advanced acoustic material
Winners of the European Inventor Award 2023
O’Carroll and Togher initially developed a headset containing a composite material that can attenuate sound and reduce effects that can cause hearing damage from loud noises. The first of the material’s innovations is its cellular structure, the second is a thixotropic gel which is placed inside the cells. Once sealed, they work together to dampen and reduce the transmission of noise from one space into another. This is particularly effective at low frequencies.
They soon realised that their concept could be adapted and integrated into machinery and household items to reduce their noise output. As the material, called SoundBounce, is thinner than conventional soundproofing, it is perfect for use in the automotive industry. Thinner soundproofing makes vehicles lighter and results in lower fuel consumption. O’Carroll and Togher are currently working with the European Space Agency to develop acoustic insulating technologies for space applications. SoundBounce's thinness could enable larger payloads and therefore lower the cost per payload for space agencies.
Listening to the market
O’Carroll and Togher met at age 15 in secondary school and bonded over their shared love of music. They were interested in improving their damaged hearing from overexposure to loud noise and created a sound therapy solution for tinnitus, later entering it into the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition – Ireland’s largest science fair. Initially, they had not considered turning the project into a business. But with a huge demand from the public visiting the exhibition and with support from the Local Enterprise Office, they developed an online platform to provide access to their sound therapy.
The negative impact of noise pollution was clear from the testimonies of early sound therapy customers, so they created SoundBounce – an advanced material for noise reduction. In the following years, they successfully secured EUR 3.7 million in funding to commercialise this new invention. As the business continues to grow, Togher is grateful for the support the company has received, particularly when it comes to IP: “Our patent attorneys have been pivotal to this success. We first met them when we were 19…they had faith in us, at a time when younger entrepreneurs were not as common as they are today.”
Togher and O’Carroll have worked together now for over a decade, and they have built a strong team around them. O’Carroll said, "Trust is a crucial component in any successful partnership, whether in business or friendship. I have complete faith in Rhona and her unwavering commitment to the success of our business, as well as our friendship. It is the foundation upon which everything else is built."
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