Ciarra Cartwright Elliott
Erdem Topsakal, Ph.D.
VCU College of Engineering
Project Title: Delivery System for Disposable, Low Environmental Impact, High Data Transfer Rate, One Way, Underwater Communications System
What it is, in a nutshell:
A dissolving transmission system for submarine communications
What it is, in a slightly bigger shell:
Underwater communications are difficult because the electromagnetic waves normally used to transfer data don’t travel well in water. Alternative communication methods exist, but they have limited effectiveness and/or strategic disadvantages.
This project aims to solve this problem by creating a dissolving delivery vessel for a high-speed communications system.
The system’s dissoluble portion, called the transmission sphere, floats to the water’s surface, transmits data and dissolves. To fabricate it, the team created a proprietary dissolving material for which they have filed a patent application. Because the sphere is not tethered to the vessel — and dissolves after doing its job — there is less risk of a submarine’s location being identified by adversaries. This advantage will strategically enhance U.S. and NATO allies’ defensive capabilities, increasing the security of the United States.
What they’re working on right now:
Mechanical electrical integration and testing.
The biggest challenge so far:
“Carbon steel is much harder to work with than we expected at first.”
Their goal by the end of the year:
The entire communication system — and video of it in action.
A tip for others who want to work on something similar:
“This is definitely a gargantuan undertaking. If you are planning to do something this intense, be ready to give 20+ hours a week per team member to get it accomplished.”