ECE researchers focused on underwater communication
By Lauren Eichmann, ECE Illinois
August 3, 2007
- Prof. Andrew Singer is part of an Illinois research team that was awarded the 2007 Multidisciplinary Research Initiative grant.
- Singer and his team were awarded the grant as a member for their project entitled "Underwater Acoustic Propagation and Communications: A Coupled Research Program."
- The focus of the research will be a broad, far-reaching study of the physics of sound propagation coupled with underwater acoustic communication. "We are trying to attack the problem of communicating better with underwater vehicles for the Navy," said Singer.
ECE Associate Professor Andrew Singer is part of a University of Illinois team that was awarded a 2007 Multidisciplinary Research Initiative (MURI) grant as a member institution of a project headed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) entitled, "Underwater Acoustic Propagation and Communications: A Coupled Research Program."
According to Singer, the focus of the research will be a broad, far-reaching study of the physics of sound propagation coupled with underwater acoustic communication. "We are trying to attack the problem of communicating better with underwater vehicles for the Navy," said Singer. "The ocean environment is so variable that it is very challenging to identify the types of communication methods that will work, and work well."
Singer, who is a Donald Biggar Willett Scholar, explained that sound propagation in the ocean is highly dependent on everything from water temperature, to the level of various noises from ocean animals and other ambient clamor. "Right now it’s dangerous (for those in the Navy) because the only way to increase the data rate of communications is to have the submarine basically come up to the surface of the water," he said. "The ultimate goal for us is to achieve the same data rate capabilities you have at home with a broadband connection, (underwater)." That means improving the current reliability and data rate a hundred-fold, Singer said.
The MURI program sponsors multi-disciplinary university research initiatives in research fields relating to science and engineering and is overseen by the Department of Defense. Of the 129 proposals presented this past year, Singer’s grant was one of 36 selected for financial support in March. The Office of Naval Research will be funding the award, which totals approximately $4.5 million over five years. Of that amount, Singer and his Illinois team will be awarded $308,000 for the first three years with a conditional $205,000 for the last two years.
Members from the Illinois team will be working with principal investigator Jim Preisig of WHOI - the largest independent oceanographic research institution in the U.S. - as well as teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the University of Rhode Island.
The teams will develop experiments during the first year. At the end of the year, researchers will be at sea carrying out some of the experiments, said Singer, who noted he will be introducing two to six Illinois students to the project. During the third year of the grant, researchers will assess the performance of their tests and give recommendations to the Navy. Whether the grant is extended an additional two years depends upon the team’s success in achieving a higher data rate.
The researchers likewise hope the new technology will positively impact the efficiency and reliability of military modems and other underwater commercial systems, such as those used to operate certain oil machinery by way of acoustic signaling.
The team was also recently awarded the "Joint Development of Forward Error Correction, Channel, and Data Estimation Algorithms for Reliable Underwater Acoustic Communications" grant under the same initiative by the Office of Naval Research. The award will be for $600,000 over three years.
In addition to being an ECE faculty member, Singer is affiliated with the University’s Coordinated Science Lab and is the director of the Technology Entrepreneur Center.
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