The sound of science: using acoustics in space and under water

Visiting Professor Jacques-Yves Guigné described how technology used to survey the ocean floor is now being used on the International Space Station, in a seminar organised by the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) on Tuesday 17 November.

Professor Guigné, a former graduate from Bath in 1986, has designed a new way to create small pencil-thin beams of sound, which can be used to probe the very shallow surface of the seabed and get information about the sea life just below or at the surface.

Fish, burrowing worms, deep-sea flora all leave traces in the seabed, which can now be interpreted with this instrument, called DRUMS. Professor Guigné is now mainly living in Canada, where he has created several companies using innovative science to map the sea and the land using acoustics and seismics.

He has since developed the DRUMS technology to use fine beams of sound to levitate and position objects. By levitating objects, it is possible to make them react without influence from their container and without leaving dirty residues. Combined with microgravity, this powerful new tool has now been adopted by NASA, which has recently installed Space-DRUMS on the International Space Station to create new materials and investigate their complex properties.

Professor Guigné’s seminar described these different applications of the same basic concept, weaving them around the theme of connecting ideas and showing the importance of scientific versatility and lateral thinking. He also spoke about his collaborations with Professor Nick Pace and Dr Philippe Blondel (Department of Physics), with whom he has been looking at ways of probing the interior of the Earth, and at the mapping of cold-water coral reefs, strongly affected by climate change.

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