Hydromea, a Swiss-based company with core expertise in underwater robotics, has developed a miniature optical modem that can operate in the ocean at a depth of six thousand meters. It is sensitive enough to collect data from sources more than 50 meters away at 500 kilobits per second.
Hydromea’s engineers use light to transmit signals underwater. The team developed the LUMA modem, which is a fully insulated unit in a transparent plastic box that protects the device from extreme pressure.
The device sends signals using a fast flashing blue light. It converts the data into pulses of light and directs it to the receiver. What’s more, it is equally capable of decoding the signals and converting them back into data in the desired format. The modem works at a depth of six thousand meters.
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The most difficult development was to find a way to transmit information over sufficiently long distances, about 50-100 meters, and to ensure uninterrupted work in any conditions, explained the engineers.
“It took us a long time to create a receiver that is sensitive enough to pick up weak light pulses even from afar,” said Felix Schill, CTO.
“We chose blue light because it allows our system to function at a greater distance,” Schill commented on the development. Water easily absorbs most waves: for example, infrared radiation and yellow light can only travel a few meters, while blue and green light penetrate much deeper.
The system has already been tested by scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany while working in the Pacific Ocean, at a depth of 4380 meters.