Device Offers Long-Distance, Low-Power Underwater Communication

Published: Monday, September 25, 2023 – 12:01

But if the researchers switch the polarity, and the negative and positive terminals are connected to each other instead, then the reflection is a “bit zero.”

When tested in a river and an ocean, the retrodirective device exhibited a communication range that was more than 15 times farther than previous devices. However, the experiments were limited by the length of the docks available to the researchers.

(MIT: Cambridge, MA) — MIT researchers have demonstrated the first system for ultralow-power underwater networking and communication that can transmit signals across kilometer-scale distances.

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“What started as a very exciting intellectual idea a few years ago—underwater communication with a million times lower power—is now practical and realistic,” says Fadel Adib, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Signal Kinetics group in the MIT Media Lab. “There are still a few interesting technical challenges to address, but there is a clear path from where we are now to deployment.” 

Underwater backscatter enables low-power communication by encoding data in sound waves that it reflects, or scatters, back toward a receiver. These innovations enable reflected signals to be more precisely directed at their source.

Published Sept. 6, 2023, on MIT News.