Science proves aluminum foil boosts wireless speed (your uncle isn’t crazy)

Turns out he’s not crazy. You know, that uncle who swears aluminum foil wrapped around the wifi antenna boosts the signal.  Xia Zhou, a Dartmouth assistant professor of computer science and her colleagues have come up with a way to custom create 3D-print antennas that can direct wifi signals to specific areas and limit outside geographic access with stunning accuracy. And they can do it for around $35 in 23 minutes. Their secret sauce that settles millions of arguments the world over: wrapping the wifi antenna in aluminum foil boosts the signal.

Aside from settling an age-old bet, the findings of the paper titled, “Customizing Indoor Wireless Coverage via 3D Fabricated Reflectors” makes important recommendations about how tailoring wireless antennas to fit into specific areas has wide implications for network security, reliability and efficiency.

The benefit of the custom-printed antennas isn’t just to increase range. They also direct the signal away from unwanted areas, (read: neighbors) to help keep the network secure.

“It improves the efficiency of wireless infrastructure in buildings by mitigating the impact of building’s insulations, partitions, and interior layouts, reducing harmful interference, and enhancing system security,” the paper says. “Such physical confinement of wireless signals serves as a complimentary method to existing network security measures.”

The inspiration behind the research, according to EurekAlert, was previous data that showed an empty aluminum can around an antenna could focus the signal in a specific direction.

Reportedly, the software-optimized reflectors can boost the signal by 6 dB where you want it and weaken it by 10 dB where you don’t.

No word on when the software will be available to the public.

Image: Xia Zhou/Dartmouth 




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