Comparison of the Role of Beamwidth in Biological and Engineered Sonar
Todd, Bryan Donald
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Sonar is an important sensory modality for engineers as well as in nature. In engineering, sonar is the dominating modality for underwater sensing. In biology, it is likely to have been a central factor behind the unprecedented evolutionary success of bats, a highly diverse group that accounts for over 20% of all mammal species. However, it remains unclear to what extent engineered and biosonar follow similar design and operational principles. In the current work, the key sonar design characteristic of beamwidth is examined in technical and biosonar. To this end, beamwidth data has been obtained for 23 engineered sonar systems and from numerical beampattern predictions for 151 emission and reception elements (noseleaves and pinnae) from bat biosonar. Beamwidth data from these sources is compared to the beamwidth of a planar ellipsoidal transducer as a reference. The results show that engineered and biological both obey the basic physical limit on beamwidth as a function of the ratio of aperture size and wavelength. However, beyond that, the beamwidth data revealed very different behaviors between the engineered and the biological sonar systems. Whereas the beamwidths of the technical sonar systems were very close to the planar transducer limit, the biological samples showed a very wide scatter away from this limit. This scatter was as large – if not wider – than what was seen in a small reference data set obtained with random aluminum cones. A possible interpretation of these differences in the variability could be that whereas sonar engineers try to minimize beamwidth subject to constraints on device size, the evolutionary optimization of bat biosonar beampatterns has been directed at other factors that have left beamwidth as a byproduct. Alternatively, the biosonar systems may require beamwidth values that are larger than the physical limit and differ between species and their sensory ecological niches.
- Masters Theses