Researchers discover aluminum foil actually does improve your wireless speed

Sheri Evans
November 9, 2017

That 3D prints the ideal shape needed to form the beams for better signal strength and security, according to the team.

The affordable technique developed by researchers at Dartmouth College and Columbia University essentially creates a "virtual wall" to improve Wifi signal in indoor spaces with multiple rooms. "Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure", said Zhou. Not only can you strengthen the signal in certain areas by redirecting it towards Wi-Fi weak spots around your home, but you can block and deaden the signal in other specified areas. Not only does it make sure you have signal in the rooms you need it in, but it allows you to cut off signal where you don't.

The researchers built on previous studies which used aluminium drinks cans to "direct" signals - and 3D-printed a plastic-and-aluminium device to give a signal boost.

To create the technology, the research designed an algorithm that optimizes a reflector's 3-D shape to target wireless coverage.

That is, by limiting the WiFi signal to certain indoor spaces, users can protect themselves better from nearby cyber attacks or unknown usage, and can even help to reduce interference with their own connections.

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The team simulated the spread of the signals, along with their interactions with objects in the environment. They then created a program called WiPrint using a 3D printer and fed their data into that program. The researchers have managed to create exactly that, but one that's made of plastic and a thin layer of metal.

'Cardboard would act as a reasonable substitute for the 3D printed substrate, ' Justin Chan noted on YouTube, in a comment accompanying the video demonstration.

The researchers say they will continue developing and advancing their WiFi enhancing technology, and will be exploring the use of different materials for the reflectors.

The researchers tested the reflector with a variety of off-the-shelf Wi-Fi access points, including those using the latest Wi-Fi protocol 802.11ac.

"With a simple investment of about $35 and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars", said Xia Zhou, a Dartmouth assistant professor.

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