Student creates system that transmits data through metal using ultrasound

March 8th, 2011 - 5:37 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 8 (ANI): A doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a new system that uses ultrasound to transmit large quantities of data and power wirelessly through thick metal walls, like the hulls of ships and submarines.

Currently, to install critical safety sensors on the exterior of ships and submarines, the U.S. Navy is forced to drill holes in the hull through which cables for data and power transmission are run.

However, each hole increases the risk of leaks and structural failure.

Additionally, installing these sensors on commissioned vessels requires the use of a drydock or cofferdam, which can take months and cost millions of dollars.

Lawry’s invention uses ultrasound - high-frequency acoustic waves instead of conventional electromagnetic wireless systems to easily propagate signals through thick metals and other solids.

Piezoelectric transducers are used to convert electrical signals into acoustic signals and vice versa, allowing his system to form wireless electrical bridges across these barriers.

The design features separate non-interfering ultrasonic channels for independent data and power transmission.

He demonstrated the simultaneous, continuous delivery of 50 watts of power and 12.4 megabytes per second (Mbps) of data through a 2.5-inch-thick solid steel block in real time.

Lawry’s system allows the transmission system to adapt to non-ideal conditions and mechanical variations over time. This is critical for ensuring successful operation of the system in real-world conditions outside of a controlled laboratory environment.

In addition to the hulls of ships and submarines, Lawry said his wireless data and power system could benefit many other applications where it is necessary or advantageous to continually power and monitor sensor networks in isolated environments.

Lawry is one of three finalists for the 2011 30,000-dollar Lemelson-MIT Rensselaer Student Prize. (ANI)

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