Why the Piezoelectric Effect is Tennis’ Technological Ace
How has audio technology changed the world of tennis?
Wimbledon, the world’s most prestigious tennis competition, is causing a racquet in the UK’s capital this week. The courts will play host to eager fans, royalty, top tennis aces - and a whole load of innovative technology. One such piece of tennis tech is focused on capturing and analysing gameplay. And, as it turns out, it's audio technology that plays a big part in serving up the future of professional tennis.
It’s a familiar scene in tennis matches: A player serves; a split second later there’s a sharp beep. The play is then stopped, and the serve is repeated. It was all very quick, but what exactly happened? When the ball hits the net cord, but still lands in the service court of the opponent. This is called a let. This is not a fault and the player is allowed to retake the serve. However, while this is the rule, it’s a tough one to catch.
With tennis balls often skimming nets, how is it possible to spot a let at Wimbledon? It’s got everything to do with that beep. The beep is produced by a net-cord sensor, a device that indicates when the ball touches the top of the net - even slightly. Wimbledon has its own unique and sophisticated system called Trinity, designed by German audio engineer Dietmar Brauer. Trinity itself was developed from an instrument pickup - a transducer that captures or senses mechanical vibrations produced by musical instruments. This is the same technology that’s found in microphones, speakers and even some RHA headphones. Known as piezoelectric technology, it’s a cornerstone of audio. In short, when certain materials are subjected to an electrical current they vibrate - which makes them a great material for audio speakers.
The Piezoelectric Effect can also work in reverse; apply pressure to a piezoelectric material and it will produce an electric charge – this is where the effect becomes useful to tennis and the umpire. Trinity utilises the effect to detect even the slightest vibrations from the net. These vibrations change into an electrical current, which then creates the famous beeping sound, thereby notifying the umpire.
Piezoelectric technology has certainly given an advantage to the game of tennis, allowing a more detailed look into both the game and the actions of the players. This tech can also be found in everyday objects such as phones and watches. For now, though, take the tech back to its audio roots and listen to our specially curated Wimbeldon playlist – made up of songs with lyrics associated with tennis. We know you’ll love them.