A battery-free, wireless and underwater camera: here is the MIT technology to have energy at the bottom of the sea

News hardware A battery-free, wireless and underwater camera: here is the MIT technology to have energy at the bottom of the sea

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known around the world for its many crazy technological innovations. This time the engineers succeeded in creating a camera that could revolutionize underwater exploration.

The seabed is virtually uncharted territory, despite the fact that NASA has robots capable of descending to explore it. Indeed, water prevents us from knowing better what is happening 20,000 leagues under the sea.. In fact, we even have better images of Mars than of the seabed. Besides access to these depths, one of the problems is how to get enough power and energy to film and photograph these places.

But, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), may have found the solution to this problem. In a article published in Naturethey describe the creation of the first battery-less camera designed for underwater exploration. A wireless camera, which works underwater and where batteries are not needed.

Capture the energy of sound

The absence of a battery is not a problem in itself, but to power this camera, you necessarily need something? MIT engineers say this camera is 100,000 times more efficient than other aquatic cameras. The institute also indicates that this device is capable of taking color photos, even in the darkness of the seabed.

Photo credit: Adam Glanzman

But how much energy is needed to transfer the captured images? well the answer lies in the sound. In effect, engineers convert the mechanical energy of sound waves traveling through water into electrical energy, which in turn is used for camera electronics. After the image is processed, the camera again uses sound waves to send this data to the surface so computers can reconstruct the image.

“We are already building camera models but we are missing data for more than 95% of the ocean. This technology could help us build more precise tools and better understand how climate change is affecting the underwater world.”, explains Fadel Adib, director of the Signal Kinetics group. at the MIT Media Lab.

The camera itself does not need a battery or a direct power source because it is only when it receives sound waves that the necessary pulse is generated. As the engineers explain, the camera can operate for weeks before having to come back to the surface. And it is this autonomy that is essential to enable more efficient marine exploration.

MIT geniuses strike again

To transform sound into energy, the camera uses transducers made of piezoelectric materials that are placed around the device. When a mechanical force (that of sound) is applied to them, an electrical signal is produced. The most interesting thing is that this sound force can come from any source, whether from the seabed itself or from a passing ship. The camera is able to retain this energy to take pictures, although the main difficulty remains color.

Photo credit: Adam Glanzman

A battery-free, wireless and underwater camera: here is the MIT technology to have energy at the bottom of the sea

For the moment, the researchers have a working prototype and have already used it to study an African red starfish.. The next step is to expand the camera memory and find out if they can record video while extending the range – 40 meter limit at the moment.

This MIT invention is not the first technological object to operate without a battery. In particular, there are already a few devices operating through solar energy or through ambient radio waves (Powerfoyle and OPPO). This MIT camerait is therefore based on mechanical sound waves. Basically, the engineers of the institute followed the same idea as others before them: trying to obtain energy in an original way without taking advantage of a conventional battery.

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