Mechanical Engineering Students Invent Leaf Blower Silencer

At Johns Hopkins University, a Mechanical Engineering class was given a difficult assignment: To silence an off-the-shelf leaf blower, without reducing its efficacy.

Apparently the assignment was given with no expectation that it could actually be accomplished; as the school’s Hub publication writes, “Shocking their sponsors, their advisers, and even themselves a little, the students did it.”

Seniors Leean Alfaoury, Michael Chacon, Madison Morrison and Andrew Palacio have been working on it since last September. The team analyzed the variety of noises that come out of a leaf blower—”it contains a lot of different frequencies,” Palacio says—and finally focused on “the most shrill and annoying frequencies,” reducing those by a staggering 94%.

Their invention yields an overall noise reduction of 37%. That might not sound like a lot, but as you can hear in the before/after video below, the difference is dramatic. The students were wise to focus on the shrill frequencies.

“In order to get to the attachment that we’ve come up with today, we had to try many different things, and many of them failed,” says Palacio. “But that is inevitably what engineering’s all about.”

Their design is patent pending, and sponsor Stanley Black & Decker “can’t wait to start manufacturing and selling the new tools,” the school writes.

“It’s not just some cool theoretical thing that will sit on a shelf and never be heard from again—this is ready to be mass manufactured,” says Nate Greene, senior product manager at Stanley Black & Decker and Johns Hopkins engineering alum. “This is a really rare and dramatic level of success.”

The students say their design could possibly be adapted to vacuums and hairdryers.

I hope they get royalties!

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