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Sensorbots monitor the deep ocean

NSF Award:

EAGER: Developing Multi-Hop Sensorbots for Underwater Wireless Sensor Networks  (Arizona State University)

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Deep-sea fish may meet some odd-looking creatures as researchers deploy Sensorbots to monitor environmental conditions in the ocean. The orb-shaped robots acquire details about pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature and relay this data through brilliant blue pulses of light. High-speed cameras capture the information for future analysis.

Developed by researchers at Arizona State University to measure a wide range of properties of low-temperature hydrothermal fluid in the deep ocean, the Sensorbots rely on optical lightwave communication to transmit their data. Because of this, semi-autonomous Sensorbot swarms, operating by remote control, could potentially move in 3-D, geometric patterns through precisely controlled volumes of seawater.  

An ad hoc, multi-hop networking approach links the Sensorbots together to extend their coverage over long distances, providing all the benefits of high-bandwidth, high-speed optical communications without sacrificing range. This approach eliminates the challenges of strong absorption and scattering that is often encountered by light transmission under water.

The small, transparent, battery-operated robots are low cost, which permits deployment by the hundreds, and they can last for many months on a single charge. Affordability and ad hoc connectivity help circumvent concern over their potential loss due to biofouling and regular ocean operations.

Images (1 of )

  • sensorbots communicate via optical blinking patterns
  • a sensorbot's transparent housing allows for optical communication between sensors
  • a sensorbot network
Sensorbots communicate via optical blinking patterns.
Cody Youngbull, Arizona State University
Transparent housing allows Sensorbots to communicate using light.
Cody Youngbull, Arizona State University
A Sensorbot network.
Cody Youngbull, Arizona State University

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