Dr. John Buck: exploring underwater acoustics

Dr. John Buck has received a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to execute a 5-year project on underwater sounds.

professor headshot

by Adrienne N. Wartts

Dr. John Buck, professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, is involved in a number of projects that concentrate on array processing, underwater acoustics, and animal bioacoustics. Buck’s research attempts to characterize the amount of information carried by underwater sounds, and to determine how this information can be extracted and used for remote sensing and communications.

Most recently he was awarded $150,000, the final installment of a $793,742 grant from U.S. Office of Naval Research for the five-year collaborative project “Co-Prime Sensor Array Signal Processing.” The project focuses on new designs for underwater arrays of hydrophones (underwater microphones) to get the same performance as existing arrays with far fewer sensors. 

“These sensor arrays detect which direction sounds arrive from, by studying the delay between the sound arriving at adjacent sensors,” said Buck, who is working with Professor Kathleen Wage of George Mason University on the project. “By carefully canceling out the loud sounds from one direction, we can find other sounds that were originally overwhelmed by the loud ones.”

Vital to ocean acoustics & homeland security

Underwater hydrophone arrays prove vital to many areas of ocean acoustics as well as to homeland security in tracking submarines and marine mammals. In the future, these same sparse array geometries may lead to cheaper antenna arrays in cell phone towers, and faster MRIs in medicine.

Dr. Buck received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanographic and Electrical Engineering and joined the faculty of UMass Dartmouth in 1996. He has held visiting appointments at the University of New South Wales, George Mason University, Brown University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of Illinois.

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