For all its indisputable merits, the GPS navigation system is completely useless under the water column. The reason for this is known – water scatters radio waves. Operating underwater radars and submarine sonars are typically complex, bulky systems that require a lot of power to operate.
But what about power supplies on small stand-alone devices that spend a lot of time on the high seas, where they collect various data? Obviously, conventional batteries are not suitable for this.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in conjunction with the US Office of Naval Research, proposed using piezoelectric materials as a source of energy for such devices, which generate an electric charge when exposed to background sound waves that overflow the surrounding space.
The system was named Underwater Backscatter Localization (UBL). The signal received at its receiver in the audio range activates the piezoelectric element. The resulting voltage is converted through a sensor system into a signal that can be used both for sensing the environment and for determining one’s own location.
The effectiveness of UBL has already been tested at great depths, the next step is the possibility of its use in shallow water. In the future, UBL will find application in robotic underwater devices of a new generation to perform various functions, in particular, mapping, automated monitoring and navigation.