The new laboratory, which was funded as part of a £2M grant from ONE North East, is dedicated to world leading research in wireless sensor systems and communications within extreme environments. The laboratory is equipped to enable precisely controlled experiments to be carried out on acoustic and electromagnetic transmission through various mediums.
The facility houses a large (3m x 2m x 2m) tank which can be filled with fresh or saline water. The tank has anechoic lining to produce the ideal conditions for acoustic experiments and calibration. A steel-walled enclosure is positioned adjacent to the tank to provide water-steel-air transmission paths. This enables experiments on electromagnetic transmission through steel hulled vessels or compartments without leakage paths. A wide range of instrumentation is set up to support experiments including signal/spectrum analysers, hydrophones, EM probes and power amplifiers. The tank and instrumentation is supported by commercial quality design tools for the development of experimental prototypes and production designs. This includes prototype design software, electromagnetic modelling software and embedded software/firmware tools. Within the new laboratory, office and laboratory bench space is provided to support the above activities.
The laboratory also provides test equipment for external sites, either through the use of University's research vessel RV Bernicea or test sites provided by industrial partners. The new equipment includes remotely operated vehicles to enable flexible underwater deployment of sensors or communication hardware, underwater cameras for easy inspection of submerged installations, portable EM instrumentation to identify interference sources, heavy duty IP67 portable computers for field trials of new products, and survey grade GPS unit to enable precise positioning and tracking in communication trials.
The new laboratory facilitates new technology developments in areas such as Wireless communication networks operating within compartmentalised steel structures, through-hull communications and sub-sea to air communications, and low cost sonar imaging. These new technologies have widespread application and attract significant interest from the Defence, Utility and Oil & Gas sectors.