For those of you who don’t know, sound can kill at high levels. Sound greater than 135 decibels can be lethal. Luckily our MP3 players and household speakers can’t produce sound levels that high. But a killer sound system does exist and it’s owned by the European Space Agency.
The monster sound horn owned by the agency is the most powerful of its kind in Europe. It is impossible for anyone to survive the sound of the horn once it’s turned to full volume. The horn is a part of the ESA’s Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF), which is a test chamber for performing acoustic noise tests on spacecrafts to make sure that they do not incur any damage during launch.
The chamber is 16.4 meters tall, 11 meters wide and 9 meters deep with the horn housed in one of the walls. When nitrogen is pumped through the horn, it is capable of producing sound over 154 decibels. The resulting sound is similar to standing close to several jets as they take off and is more than enough to permanently deafen someone. Sounds this loud can be harmful to humans and have been used in lower intensities to control crowds, as burglar-deterrents and in the battlefield. Sound grenades produce sound levels between 120 and 190 decibels and are enough to take a person’s life. A recent German research found that sounds up to 210 decibels loud could permanently damage internal organs.
Luckily the ESA’s sound system is not meant to be used as a weapon and is only operated behind reinforced walls when all safety doors have been closed and no one is present in the testing chamber. The walls are made of steel reinforced concrete with an epoxy resin coating that is used to contain the sound and produce a uniform sound field. No one will ever be able to listen to the horn’s true sound or live to tell the tale if they did.