Case studies

Kilohertz Acoustic Tile

NPL is pleased to announce a new tile for lining underwater acoustic test tanks or for coating hydrophone and transducer mounts. The tiles are made from a special polyurethane-based material, the acoustic properties of which have been optimised to match those of water. The result is a material with excellent echo-reduction properties and high transmission loss, making the tile suitable for use at acoustic frequencies above 10 kHz.

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Standards Laboratory, in conjunction with the company Acoustic Polymers Limited, have developed the new material for use by the maritime, oceanographic and hydrocarbon exploration industries as a sound absorbing material.

Testing of sonar transducers and hydrophones is commonly carried out in large water tanks and important measurements can be prevented, or their accuracy severely compromised, through acoustic echoes or reflections from the tank walls, fixtures used to hold the devices, as well as the water surface. The new tiles are made of a polyurethane rubber based on a polytetramethylene ether glycol that has been cross-linked through the addition of chemical species to vary the acoustic properties such as the speed of sound.

Tile properties have been optimised through the addition of small micro-balloons to boost sound absorption and high density fillers that enable the acoustic properties of the tile to be matched to that of water. A structured front surface of conical pyramids is additionally used to break up or scatter incident sound. Crucial to the optimisation has been the specialist measurement facilities at NPL that have been applied to characterise key reflection and transmission properties of the tiles over the frequency range 20 kHz to 200 kHz. They are now commercially available although research continues to develop novel sonar materials for application at frequencies below 10 kHz.


The density of the material is 1.9 g cm-3 and the standard tile, 600 mm by 600 mm by 50 mm thick, has a structured surface to reduce refl ections. However the material is available in various thicknesses and without the structured front surface. Representative key acoustic properties are given below for Echo-reduction and single-pass Insertion Loss.

Single Pass Insertion Loss of sample file
Echo Reduction for sample tile

Newcastle University Logo

The S5048 test tank lining is designed for use in the frequency range 20-200kHz. Newcastle University have recently lined their test facility.This installation was challenging as each tile weighs 39kg and approximately 70 tiles were required. tank lining installation tank lining installation tank installation tank lining installation

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