Hydrogel microphones for stealthy underwater listening

Yang Gao, Jingfeng Song, Shumin Li, Christian Elowsky, You Zhou, Stephen Ducharme, Yong Mei Chen, Qin Zhou, Li Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Exploring the abundant resources in the ocean requires underwater acoustic detectors with a high-sensitivity reception of low-frequency sound from greater distances and zero reflections. Here we address both challenges by integrating an easily deformable network of metal nanoparticles in a hydrogel matrix for use as a cavity-free microphone. Since metal nanoparticles can be densely implanted as inclusions, and can even be arranged in coherent arrays, this microphone can detect static loads and air breezes from different angles, as well as underwater acoustic signals from 20 Hz to 3 kHz at amplitudes as low as 4 Pa. Unlike dielectric capacitors or cavity-based microphones that respond to stimuli by deforming the device in thickness directions, this hydrogel device responds with a transient modulation of electric double layers, resulting in an extraordinary sensitivity (217 nF kPa-1 or 24 μC N-1 at a bias of 1.0 V) without using any signal amplification tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12316
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Aug 24 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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