To this day, we don’t know all the species living in the ocean. Some of them might disappear as a result of climate change or pollution, and we’d never know they even existed.
It’s sad to think about marine life disappearing one by one. Thankfully, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s latest discovery might help with that. The Institute has announced this week that it’s developed a battery-free underwater communication system.
Powering underwater IoT
The system transmits sensor data and doesn’t require much power. It’s a self-sustaining device that uses a transmitter. The transmitter uses sound waves as its sole source of energy. It sends out underwater acoustic waves towards a piezoelectric sensor with embedded receivers. The sensor may respond and could produce a little bit of energy, or doesn’t.
— MIT Media Lab (@medialab) August 21, 2019
By blending together piezoelectricity (used in microphones) and the backscattering of waves (used for RFID tags), the MIT researchers might just solve the challenges of studying natural havens as deep as the Mariana Trench. “Basically, we can communicate with underwater sensors based solely on the incoming sound signals whose energy we are harvesting”, said assistant MIT professor Fadel Adib.
WiFi and Bluetooth aren’t possible, not to mention that batteries run a risk of pollution. However, IoT devices like MIT’s could very well be a viable alternative. One of Adib’s examples is a study of brine pools on the Antarctic Shelf. Being able to gather data on settling brines here can help in the study of melting ice and marine life interaction.
Next up (and down)
The first few tests conducted in MIT pool showed that the device can transmit 3kb per second of accurate data from two sensors simultaneously at a 10m distance. Although no testing has been done in the sea yet, there’s a possibility that there “might be the ultimate solution for researchers in marine biography, oceanography, or even meteorology”, said professor of National Taiwan University Polly Huang. MIT also has plans to collect data of other planets’ oceans with this technology.
YouTube: Taking our ocean’s pulse: Underwater Backscattering Networking
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Cristian Palmer.
Sources: MIT News Office / Shane McGlaun (SlashGear) / Darrell Etherington (TechCrunch) / The Maritine Executive / Alister Doyle (BusinessInsider)