Bamboo Plant Opal

Bamboo Plant Opal Loudspeaker. The very name requires a second look. It certainly had me wondering what plant opal is, what it has to do with bamboo, and why it might be used to make speakers.

bamboo plant opalPlant opal, or phytoliths, are microscopic siliceous bodies which occur in living plants. When plants die and subsequently decompose, the phytolith is released into soils and sediments. Because phytoliths are highly resistant to decomposition, they survive in sediments and soils long after the plants have vanished. This characteristic makes them useful for scientific research in botany, agriculture and archaeology. Now we can add manufacture of loudspeakers to the list.

Panasonic was already making speakers with diaphragms made from resin mixed with bamboo fibres and bamboo charcoal. Their new loudspeakers also incorporate plant opal from bamboo leaves. The claims from Panasonic’s website maintain that the plant opal loudspeaker is able to reproduce clear sound with low distortion thanks to the hardness of the plant opal material that occurs naturally in bamboo.

bamboo plant opal, phytoliths

Phytoliths under the microscope. Each phytolith is only tens of micrometers long.

Plant opal is certainly hard and robust. Phytoliths are made of inorganic silica or calcium oxalate and survive in conditions that would destroy organic residues. Different plants produce distinguishable phytoliths with different shapes and relative content percentages, as do different species within the same family or subfamily. This is particularly so in the grasses family to which bamboo belongs. Within the sub-family of Bambusoideae, we find that there are several types of phytoliths in bamboos including fan-shape, long-saddle, tower-shape, sinuate elongate, smooth elongate, silica stoma, silica hair and hair tip. Who would have thought?

You can see 3,669 more images of phytoliths in the PhytCore phytolith database online. Clearly, someone cares. And aren’t we lucky they do?

Have you heard sound from the Bamboo Plant Opal Loudspeaker? Is it as good as they make out?

eBay au has books about phytoliths.


  • Hart, D. M. (1988). The plant opal content in the vegetation and sediment of a swamp at Oxford Falls, New South Wales, Australia. Australian Journal of Botany, 36(2), 159-170.
  • Huang, Z. T., Li, Y. F., Jiang, P. K., Chang, S. X., Song, Z. L., Liu, J., & Zhou, G. M. (2014). Long-term intensive management increased carbon occluded in phytolith (PhytOC) in bamboo forest soils. Scientific reports, 4.
  • Li, Q., Xu, D. K., & Lu, H. Y. (2005). Morphology of phytolith in Bambusoideae (Gramineae) and its ecological significance. Quaternary Sciences, 25, 777-784.
  • Panasonic
  • Wikipedia

3 thoughts on “Bamboo Plant Opal

  1. doris

    In your post about Phytoliths, you may want to change the second picture which illustrates diatoms, not phytoliths…. Diatoms are algae, which accumulate silica.

  2. Pingback: Bamboo for carbon sequestration | Life with Bamboo

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