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SBIR Phase II: Development of an Automated Ballast Water Exchange Monitoring System Using 'Through-the-Hull' Acoustic Modems

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II research project is aimed at building the first prototype of an automated ballast water exchange (BWE) monitoring and reporting system. The system will use acoustic modems that use ultrasonic acoustic energy through metal structures as the means of communication. Wireless networking based on radio frequencies (RF) is not very effective within enclosed metal structures such as the hulls of ships. The acoustic modems can be used to overcome such limitations and can establish a local wireless network for data transfer among sensors located in various parts of the vessels. The through-the-hull communications technology is at a nascent but proven state. Existing modems transfer data at 20 bits per second. The Phase-I research showed that a data rate of 500 bits per second (or higher) would exceed the data throughput requirement for BWE monitoring. <br/><br/>Ballast water management is a global issue. The foreign micro-organisms not only destroy the bio-diversity in the native coastal eco systems but create problems for regional economies as well. The impact from the introduction of Zebra mussels in great lakes is estimated at over four billion dollars. Therefore developing an effective and inexpensive technology for monitoring the ballast water has a broader impact on the society. It has the potential to save economies that depend on coastal resources and ensure the preservation of the local eco-systems for future generations without placing excessive restrictions on international maritime trade.

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