Questions for ‘Underwater cameras get a new power source — sound!’  

a photo of an underwater camera

This underwater camera is powered by sound. In the future, it could be used to explore more of the sea, perhaps monitoring coral reefs for impacts of climate change.

Adam Glanzman/MIT/(CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

To accompany Underwater cameras get a new power source — sound!’  


Before Reading:

  1. What kind of power — or energy — runs most of the devices in your home? List three devices that run on this type of power. Briefly describe how we might convert wind energy into this form of energy.
  2. In 2012, a loud sonic boom — caused when an aircraft crossed the sound barrier — shattered windows across Tucson, Ariz. The source was an Air Force Thunderbird during a flight rehearsal. That pilot error cost the Air Force over $22,000 in damages. Based on this story, what do you think sound is made of? How do you think sound can break objects such as glass?

During Reading:

  1.  Explain the limitation of underwater cameras that, up to now, have kept scientists from exploring much of the ocean. What potential workaround have researchers just developed?
  2. Describe one potential use for the new camera in an aquatic environment on Earth. Describe one possible use for this new camera beyond Earth.
  3. What kind of “waves” are created as sound passes through water? How do these waves affect the camera’s sensors? What kind of energy gets stored in the camera’s supercapacitor? 
  4. How many sensors does each camera contain? 
  5. In what type of setting would the camera be able to recharge the fastest? 
  6. How much does each camera cost Waleed Akbar and his research team to make? 
  7. What does the camera’s “internal switch” control? This story describes the switch as “like a mirror being moved in and out of position.” How does the system change when the “mirror” is moved “in position”?

After Reading:

  1. Work with a partner to create a one-sentence definition for “sound waves” based on what you’ve read in this story. Imagine the camera from this story is tested in the following settings: underwater, in the air and in outer space. Based on your definition, in which of those three locations do you expect the camera to work the best? In which location do you expect the camera to perform the worst? Explain how you came to that conclusion.
  2. List two forms of energy mentioned in this story. Which form of energy is harvested by the camera’s sensors? Besides a camera, what other devices might benefit from the ability to operate on this kind of energy? List four potential applications. In your opinion, which application best takes advantage of this unusual form of energy? Briefly explain your choice.