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Turkish university develops fiber optic microphone for emergencies

A fiber optic microphone, developed by researchers at Middle East Technical University (METU), promises to revolutionize emergency response capabilities. The device, capable of sensitive listening and immediate notification to relevant aid organizations, has been in development at METU’s ULTRAMEMS Research Laboratory for three years.

Professor Barış Bayram, a lecturer in METU’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department, spoke to Anadolu Agency (AA) about the project’s significance.

“We have achieved something new with this work,” Bayram said. “We continue to work to ensure that this success creates commercial value.”

Bayram highlighted the support received from the METU Technology Transfer Office and the granting of Turkish, European and U.S. patents within four years and eight months of the project’s inception. Financial support from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBİTAK) was also instrumental in the project’s development.

The microphone’s applications extend beyond emergency response. Bayram envisions its use in security applications for large buildings, hotels and comprehensive systems.

“These are very small, undetectable systems,” Bayram noted. “When an elderly person in need of care or assistance says ‘help,’ the microphone will be able to detect this and immediately notify the necessary organization accordingly.”

In addition to emergency response, the microphone’s design enables it to collect sound and other information from all sides when installed inside buildings. “They can also carry sound waves, especially when there is a need in situations such as earthquakes,” Bayram explained. “These are very sensitive systems and can be modified to detect small vibrations for earthquakes.”

Bayram also discussed the microphone’s potential applications in biomedical fields, particularly in imaging and breaking kidney stones. While the project has achieved success, Bayram emphasized that commercialization is the next step.

“Since the technologies we have developed are still at the research level in the world, there may be a limited number of people who want to use them in Türkiye,” he said. “We need to expand to the U.S. and Europe.”

With a registered product and an active laboratory, the METU team is well-positioned to further develop the technology according to demand. The project’s journey toward commercialization is just beginning, but its potential impact on emergency response and other fields is already generating significant interest.

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