MIT Engineers Successfully Demonstrated A Camera That Draws Power From Dolphin Chatter

Abdul Ghani

Sound waves replace batteries in a new underwater camera and can also be used for communication. In what state of health are the sea creatures? Is there enough left or is the region already overfished? Questions that are not so easy to answer. Underwater cameras, which observe animals like camera traps on land, are not so easy to use in the sea.
This is what the inside of the underwater camera looks like.Image by MIT/Creative Commons

They regularly need new batteries and cannot provide real-time images because the water does not allow radio waves to pass through. So the cameras have to be raised regularly to read the data and change the batteries.

Right now this will finally end up here. Sayed Saad Afzal, Fadel Adib, and their colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge/USA solved both problems in one fell swoop. They equipped their camera with piezoelectric converters that convert ambient noise into electricity.

Passing ships and even marine mammals such as dolphins, which emit acoustic signals to communicate, create sound waves in the water that are sufficient for the transducers to generate electrical energy. The energy is collected in supercapacitors. The piezo process is used in many lighters to generate the ignition spark.

Swallow=zero, reflect=one

While this part of the troubleshooting doesn't seem to have been particularly difficult, the data transfer was a real challenge. Like electricity generation, it is based on sound waves. The recipient of the data, for example, a buoy bobbing on the sea surface, transmits an acoustic signal into the water, which is picked up by the camera's piezo element. If it sends a zero, it swallows the signal but sends it back when it should be a digital one. In this way, a whole image or even a video sequence is transmitted one after the other.

Since the piezo elements only generate a small amount of electricity, the MIT researchers had to make do with a black-and-white camera. However, the images that the buoy receives are in color. To achieve this, the researchers used a trick.

Each image consists of three shots that follow each other extremely quickly. The camera sequentially illuminates the object with red, green, and blue LED light. Because the objects reflect or absorb different parts of the light depending on their own color, the three black and white shots differ. If they are recombined using special software, a color image is created.

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Member Of Freelancers Union (USA), Freelance Writer!, and Digital Creator. Ghani Mengal is an enthusiast Freelance blogger and digital marketer. His content has been published and featured on many popular blogs, websites, and publications. Including TeelFeed,, Data-Driven Investor, TextSniper, Scientific Publication The Predict, The Startup, The Ascent, Heart Affairs, Illumination, And The List goes on.


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