An amazing development has taken place as Chinese researchers claim to have successfully tested the world’s first submarine-detecting device that is based on the next-generation terahertz communication technology.
The core of this ground-breaking development is the innovative terahertz device, which has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to identify minuscule surface vibrations originating from low-frequency sound sources beneath the open sea. This capacity allows it to detect submarines with unprecedented precision, a capability that could significantly enhance naval defense strategies.
Terahertz technology occupies a unique position between microwave and infrared radiation frequencies. Long-heralded for its promise of high data transmission rates and minimal latency, it has often been touted as a fundamental component of future communication systems, sometimes referred to as 6G. Beyond its communication potential, terahertz technology also provides valuable environmental insights.
Already, terahertz screening devices are in use at some Chinese airports, where they play a pivotal role in identifying concealed items on passengers. Recent investments in 6G research have accelerated advancements in terahertz applications, opening up new avenues for widespread utilization.
One particularly intriguing prospect is integrating this technology into small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. The research team envisions a future where terahertz submarine detection technology can be miniaturized to fit onto a drone platform. This move capitalizes on the advantages of drones, including their mobility, low cost, and flexibility in deployment.
“A small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platform has the advantage of good mobility, low cost, and flexible deployment,” noted the researchers in the paper.
The significance of this integration lies in the comprehensive information it can provide when combined with other submarine detection methods, such as magnetic anomaly detectors, microwave radar, or laser systems. By amalgamating these technologies, a more holistic and nuanced understanding of underwater vessels becomes attainable, bolstering maritime security efforts significantly.
The successful experiment took place at an undisclosed location in Dalian, situated on the Yellow Sea. During the test, an artificial sound source simulated the noise generated by a submarine, while a research ship extended an arm to mimic a drone’s position. The crucial breakthrough came when the terahertz sensor managed to distinguish man-made ripples, as small as 10 nanometres, from the natural waves of the ocean—a feat previously considered impossible.
This achievement can be attributed to both hardware and software innovations. The high frequency of terahertz waves contributes to their sensitivity, while Chinese scientists pioneered an algorithm capable of effectively identifying these nanometre-sized ripples over the dynamic ocean surface.
Beyond its detection capabilities, terahertz technology also holds promise for submarine communication. Submarines, prized for their stealth, can leverage this technology to establish secure contact with friendly aircraft or other naval assets. By detecting acoustically induced surface vibration signals and decoding them, submarines can maintain covert communication channels during large-scale military operations.
“By detecting acoustically induced surface vibration signals, it is possible to invert the information conveyed by underwater sound sources,” the team said.
The research team published their ground-breaking work in the Journal of Radars, a Chinese-language peer-reviewed journal, on August 11. Their report noted that this technology “will have significant application potential in underwater vessel detection and other areas.”