Streaming Video Through a Metal Pipe

Communications in nuclear facilities can be difficult. It’s a harsh environment for physical cables that may degrade faster than usual, but there are also many substantial physical barriers such as thick reinforced concrete walls that block standard forms of remote communication.

Fast and reliable communication methods are important for everyday use and critical if an error or accident occurs, so Xin Huang has been working on overcoming these challenges by developing a new form of remote communication by sending ultrasonic signals through solid channels such as existing metal bars or pipes. 

This applies well to nuclear facilities, which tend to already have systems of metal pipes to deliver water throughout the facility for cooling. These systems are robust and unlikely to be easily damaged or severed, leading to highly resilient communication channels.

Xin has been working on this problem from both ends, developing a transmitter to send the ultrasonic signals down the pipes as well as a receiver to capture and interpret the signals when they arrive. 

“We present a complete hardware and software solution for the nuclear facilities,” says Xin, who works in the Embedded Computer and Signal Processing Research Laboratory with Filmer Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Department Chair Jafar Saniie at Illinois Institute of Technology. 

Xin was also a graduate student research assistant in the Nuclear Science and Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory from 2017 to 2019. 

So far he has developed a working prototype that can send even large volumes of data such as images or video. He is continuing to work to increase the data throughput as well as find solutions to the real-world application of this technology such as bent or warped pipes that may affect the signal transmission.  

Xin came to Illinois Tech with a notable background in engineering and communications, including two master’s degrees and a job at Texas Instruments. He chose Illinois Tech for his Ph.D. program because he was confident that it would give him a more comprehensive understanding of the electrical engineering field. 

“The most important factor is the great reputation in the engineering field and high-quality faculty. Chicago as the third largest city in the U.S. is also the factor that attracted me,” says Xin. “The degree program is a multidisciplinary area of research work. I can not only utilize the knowledge I have, but also learn more related topics.”  

At Illinois Tech, Xin has become known for his prolific research output and award-winning results. He has worked on 14 papers that have been accepted or published. His paper “Pulse Shaping and Matched Filters for EMAT Communication System” won first place in the student paper competition at the 2019 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Electro Information Technology. In 2021 he was awarded the Sigma Xi/IIT Student Research Award for his ultrasonic video monitoring system. 

After graduation, he plans to pursue opportunities to continue working at the forefront of modern technology in electrical and computer engineering.

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