MIT researchers have developed a new underwater sensor that works without batteries. The sensor generates electricity through piezoelectric materials, which vibrate when a sound wave hits them.

The sensor does not use any batteries, and uses very little energy at all. However, the device can transmit data, which according to MIT can lead to a kind of Internet or Things of sensors in the ocean in order to collect a variety of data. This makes it possible to measure the water temperature and monitor marine organisms, among other things. This is possible because of the self-charging function without a lot of maintenance and without changing the battery.

The inventor is Fadel Adib, assistant professor in the MIT Media Lab and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He is also founder-director of the Signal Kinetics Research Group. He explains that the sensors actually work with binary data. The piezoelectric mechanisms either retain their shape or not. The sound wave is reflected in the first case, but not in the second. This reaction can be compared to zeros and ones in the binary system.

“Once you have a way to send ones and zeros, you can actually send all the information. In principle, we can communicate with underwater sensors that are based exclusively on the incoming sound signals from which we also use the energy we harvest,” says Adib about the project.

Sensors for extreme environments

The plan is to test the system at longer distances so that it can be used on a large scale. Adib even states that the system might be suitable for exploratory space travel. The sensors could then be used in water reservoirs on, for example, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. NASA announced in June that the Dragonfly mission will investigate signals of life on this moon.

“How can you place an underwater sensor on Titan that will last a long time in a place that is difficult to reach?”, Adib says about this. “Sensors that communicate without a battery offer possibilities for use in extreme environments.”

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.