National Physical Laboratory

Underwater header image Underwater Acoustics

Underwater acoustics is a key underpinning technology in offshore oil and gas activities, is increasingly used in oceanographic and environmental studies, and continues to play a crucial role in defence. 

The applications of underwater sound span positioning, communications, navigation, echo-sounding, geophysical surveying, water quality measurement, sonar, weapons systems, and tomographic measurements of ocean currents and temperature. Underwater acoustics is a key underpinning technology in offshore oil and gas activities, is increasingly used in oceanographic and environmental studies, and continues to play a crucial role in defence. In addition, the accurate measurement of anthroprogenic noise is key to the assessment of its effect on marine life.

NPL’s underwater acoustics expertise includes:

  • provision of primary free-field measurements and dissemination in the frequency range 1 kHz to 1 MHz
  • acoustic testing and characterisation of transducers by use of state-of-the-art free-field test facilities consisting of both laboratory tank and open-water sites
  • acoustic testing of transducers and materials at simulated ocean conditions by use of the NPL Acoustic Pressure Vessel
  • development of standards to meet evolving industry needs, for example in the measurement and assessment of underwater radiated noise
  • development of new generation of primary standards by use of optical techniques
  • acoustic nearfield methods for sonar characterisation including the use of novel optical scanning techniques
  • provision of pressure calibration of hydrophones in the range from 5 Hz to 1 kHz

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