Author: Alexander Patananan
Date: March 2008
The term "acoustics," derived from the Greek ακουστός, or "able to be heard," refers to the branch of science dealing with the study of sound. As sound and hearing undoubtedly play crucial roles in our modern society,influencing culture, technology, communication, and even our very survival,the applications of acoustics are virtually limitless.
Acoustic sensors are commonly used today to detect and convert sounds, including those at frequencies outside the range detectable by humans, to quantifiable signals. They have been used extensively in various fields, such as medicine, law enforcement, robotics, and agriculture, just to name a few. For example, acoustic biosensors have certainly improved medical diagnostic tests for cancer by enabling the detection of characteristic protein markers. An important aspect of testing the functionality of these sensors involves tracking the resonance frequency of the devices,that is, the acoustic device's natural frequency of vibration,which has traditionally been accomplished through the use of equipment known as oscillator circuits.
In their paper, "Design and Development of Resonance Frequency Tracking Software Using LabVIEW," undergraduate researchers George S. Ruff and Alice Z. Wang from the Georgia Institute of Technology recognize the shortcomings of oscillator circuits, as they are both costly and inconvenient to operate, requiring an extensive knowledge of electronics and individual customization for each type of sensor application. With the help of their mentor, Dr. William D. Hunt, they instead propose a more economical, user-friendly alternative by writing novel resonance frequency tracking software using National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW. In particular, their software automates the process of tracking and plotting acoustic sensor real-time resonance frequencies, outputting data in an easily readable text file. At the same time, their software has shown greater versatility over oscillator circuits in testing acoustic sensors during development by enabling easy customization of parameters and by eliminating the need to construct several different circuits that depend on the specific acoustic device. To learn more about their novel software, please consult their research article in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Young Investigators.