Spouting off at sea - from waves to wireless

Spouting off at sea - from waves to wireless

Summary: Now here's a smart idea. The US Navy R&D lab SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific is playing around with making radio antennas out of sea water.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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Now here's a smart idea. The US Navy R&D lab SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific is playing around with making radio antennas out of sea water. Because salt water conducts electricity, a column of the stuff will act like metal when it comes to electricity or radio: all you have to do is pump up a fountain to the appropriate height, connect your radio to the base, and off you go. Here's a video of them spouting away

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tIZUhu21sQ

As they point out, this could be useful in an emergency, if weather or enemy action has blown away your main antennas, or if you're on a boat that doesn't have room for the longer antennas that lower frequency radio uses. It also reduces your radar cross-section, can be easily retuned for use on different wavelenghts, is cheap and robust, and beautifully compact when you're not using it.

All good stuff, and they're saying that they've patented it, which would make sense if others hadn't been playing around with the idea many years ago - and probably back a long way before then. The researchers say that it's not the actual column of sea water that's new, it's the way they couple the radio frequency energy into it, while sensing and adjusting parameters for different frequencies.

Personally, I'm just disappointed they've only been using the idea for simple single-element antennas. True aficionados of the wireless know that there are many delightfully complex contraptions - perhaps a whirlpool could be used as a parabolic dish, or a stately array of ornamental fountains used to form a shortwave beam.

The possibilities are endless. Salty and damp, but endless.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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