wireless underwater camera are more than 95 percent of the oceans on Earth, according to scientists, have never been seen. As a result, we know less about the oceans on Earth than we do about the far side of the moon or the surface of Mars.
Widespread undersea exploration is hindered by the costly cost of powering an underwater camera for an extended period of time, whether by tying it to a research vessel or sending a ship to recharge its batteries.
By creating a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that is around 100,000 times more energy-efficient than other underwater cameras, MIT researchers have made a significant progress toward solving this issue. Even in low-light conditions underwater, the camera captures color images and wirelessly sends them.
Sound provides the camera’s power. To power its image and communications technology, it transforms mechanical energy from sound waves moving through water into electrical energy. The camera employs sound waves to convey data to a receiver that reconstructs the image after the image has been captured and encoded.
Scientists can examine remote areas of the ocean for new species because the camera doesn’t require a power source and can run for weeks on end until retrieval. Additionally, it might be used to take pictures of ocean pollution or track the wellbeing and development of fish bred in aquaculture facilities.
“For me, the use of this camera in the context of climate monitoring is one of its most fascinating applications. Over 95% of the ocean’s data is missing from the climate models we are constructing. With the aid of this technology, we may be able to create climate models that are more precise and comprehend the effects of climate change on the ocean environment “explains Fadel Adib, senior author of the study and associate professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science as well as the head of the Signal Kinetics group at the MIT Media Lab.
Co-lead authors and research assistants from the Signal Kinetics group Sayed Saad Afzal, Waleed Akbar, and Osvy Rodriguez, research scientist Unsoo Ha, and former members of the group Mario Doumet and Reza Ghaffarivardavagh also collaborated on the article with Adib. The research article appears in Nature Communications.
The researchers wanted a tool that could autonomously harvest energy underwater while using very little power in order to construct a camera that could run independently for extended periods.
Transducers composed of piezoelectric materials are positioned all over the camera’s exterior to collect energy. When a mechanical force is applied to piezoelectric materials, an electric signal is generated. The transducers vibrate and change the mechanical energy of a sound wave passing through the water into electrical energy when it strikes them.
The source of such sound waves could be anything, such as a passing ship or aquatic life. Until it has accumulated enough to operate the circuits that take photographs and transmit data, the camera retains the harvested energy.
The researchers employed off-the-shelf, ultra-low-power image sensors to limit power usage to a minimum. These sensors, however, can only record grayscale images. They also needed to design a low-power flash because most underwater situations are dark.
“We were attempting to decrease the hardware as much as possible, and this imposes new limitations on the way the system is constructed, information is sent, and image reconstruction is carried out. To figure out how to do this, it needed some inventiveness, “Adib claims.
They used red, green, and blue LEDs to concurrently solve both issues. A red LED is shone by the camera while it takes a picture, which is then processed by image sensors. With green and blue LEDs, the same procedure is repeated.
The red, green, and blue colored light are reflected in the white portion of each photograph, Akbar adds, despite the fact that the image seems to be black and white. The color image can be recreated by combining the image data during post-processing.
“We were taught as children in painting classes that the three primary hues could be used to create any color. The same guidelines apply to color computer images. Red, Green, and Blue are the only three channels we require to create color visuals “He claims.
Sound and data transmission
Using a technique known as underwater backscatter, image data are encoded as bits (1s and 0s) and delivered to a receiver one bit at a time after being acquired. The camera serves as a mirror to reflect the sound waves that are transmitted by the receiver through the water. The camera either sends a wave back to the receiver by reflecting it or transforms its mirror into an absorber to prevent reflection.
If a signal is reflected back from the camera, it is detected by a hydrophone close to the transmitter. It receives a bit-1 if there is a signal, and a bit-0 if there is no signal. This binary data is used by the system to reconstruct and edit the image.
This entire process uses five orders of magnitude less power than standard underwater communications systems, according to Afzal, because it just calls only one switch to change the gadget from a nonreflective state to a reflective state.
The camera was tested by the researchers in a variety of underwater settings. In one, they managed to photograph in color plastic bottles drifting in a pond in New Hampshire. Additionally, they were able to capture an African starfish in such exquisite detail that the small tubercles along its arms could be seen. Aponogeton ulvaceus, an underwater plant, was successfully imaged repeatedly over the course of a week in a dark environment to track its growth.
The researchers intend to improve the device so it may be used in real-world circumstances now that they have shown a functioning prototype. They plan to enhance the camera’s memory so that it can take underwater videos, broadcast images, and take photos in real-time.
They also seek to increase the camera’s field of view. Although they were able to transmit data 40 meters away from the receiver, extending the range would allow the camera to be employed in more underwater environments.
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