Researchers have discovered that wrapping aluminium foil around router antennas strengthens Wi-Fi connections.
Take off your tin-foil hat, you're going to need it for something else. The outlandish theory that foil improves a signal might not be so bogus after all.
Researchers at Dartmouth College found that the use of aluminium foil does indeed increase the range of Wi-Fi connections and can also improve its security.
The team, led by assistant professor Xia Zhou, placed a 3D-printed reflector made of just plastic and a thin layer of aluminium around a Wi-Fi router. The reflector redirected the wireless signal to the areas in the room which have limited wireless coverage, boosting weak spots.
After testing the reflector in two different rooms, the team found it was able to increase the strength of coverage by a whopping 6dB, the equivalent of one thick wall or ceiling. In the case of physical security, the reflector was able to decrease signal range in unwanted areas by 10dB, providing many obvious benefits for physical security.
“Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure,” Xia Zhou, assistant professor at Dartmouth College, said in a press briefing.
The reflector improves on previous studies which involved the use of aluminium cans being placed behind Wi-Fi access points to improve the directional connection.
Wi-Fi is notoriously challenging for use indoors because of the frustratingly complex relationship between radio signals and environmental factors such as walls and furniture. Solutions that improve the strength of wireless connections can often be, annoying to say, bank-breaking. This research has found that all you actually need is a 3D-printed piece of plastic wrapped in foil that's been directionally configured for the targeted area.
“With a simple investment of about $US35 and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars,” said Zhou.
The team's findings come just weeks after the discovery of the vulnerability in WPA2 Wi-Fi connections. The vulnerability saw users put at risk of being hacked, with experts suggesting that the flaw could be taken advantage of if the hacker was physically close to the target.
The team is now studying reflectors made of different materials and will examine higher frequency bands, like visible light and millimetre waves.
Now I'm off to make my own makeshift reflector and fix the office's slow connection.