There’s a new type of seismic imaging called Acoustic Zoom, and it’s better than older forms of sonar for both dolphins and scientists alike. It works by emitting smaller amounts of energy over a longer period of time, so it’s gentler on marine life. Acoustic Zoom also creates higher resolution imaging, making it superior to other methods of seismic imaging. Scientists Jaques Guigné and Nick Pace at the University of Bath have been working on this technology for some time, and the benefits of this method are already impressive.
This new form of sonar has the potential to save dolphins’ hearing, and possibly their lives, with its gentler sound waves: Dolphins and other marine life can still hear the waves, but they are at higher frequencies stretched over longer periods of time, so the impact is less damaging. Regular sonar rolls out waves at over 230 decibels, and it’s been shown that dolphins and whales will swim as far as possible (and occasionally end up beached) in a desperate attempt to get away from the sounds.
Acoustic Zoom works differently than existing seismic imaging technology by analyzing the scattered sound energy instead of the reflected energy that other technologies rely on. This is a difficult task to accomplish since the scattered signals are weak, but this new development marks a breakthrough in the way mapping data could be collected in the future.
Technology like this is frequently used in determining where to drill for oil and natural gas. By providing more accurate imaging, Acoustic Zoom could potentially reduce the overall impact on the environment by reducing unnecessary drilling.