AskDefine | Define hydrophone

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a transducer that converts underwater sound waves into electrical signals, rather like a microphone

Extensive Definition

A hydrophone (Greek "hydro" = "water" and "phone" = "sound") is a microphone designed to be used underwater for recording or listening to underwater sound. Most hydrophones are based on a piezoelectric transducer that generates electricity when subjected to a pressure change. Such piezoelectric materials, or transducers can convert a sound signal into an electrical signal since sound is a pressure wave in fluids. Some transducers can also serve as a projector (emitter), but not all have this capability, and may be destroyed if used in such a manner.
A hydrophone can "listen" to sound in air, but will be less sensitive due to its design as having a good acoustic impedance match to water, the more dense fluid. Likewise, a microphone can be buried in the ground, or immersed in water if is put in a waterproof container, but will give similarly poor performance due to the similarly bad acoustic impedance match.


The hydrophone was used late in World War I. American convoys used them to detect German U-boats, greatly lessening the effectiveness of the submarine. Ernest Rutherford, in England, led pioneer research in hydrophones using piezoelectric devices. His only patent was for a hydrophone device.

Directional hydrophones

A small single cylindrical ceramic transducer can achieve near perfect omnidirectional reception. Directional hydrophones increase sensitivity from one direction using two basic techniques:

Focused Transducers

This device uses a single transducer element with a dish or conical-shaped sound reflector to focus the signals, in a similar manner to a reflecting telescope. This type of hydrophone can be produced from a low-cost omnidirectional type, but must be used while stationary, as the reflector impedes its movement through water.


Multiple hydrophones can be arranged in an array so that it will add the signals from the desired direction while subtracting signals from other directions. The array may be steered using a beamformer. Most commonly, hydrophones are arranged in a "line array" but may be in two or three dimensional arrangements.



hydrophone in Bosnian: Hidrofon
hydrophone in German: Hydrophon
hydrophone in Modern Greek (1453-): Υδρόφωνο
hydrophone in Spanish: Hidrófono
hydrophone in French: Hydrophone
hydrophone in Galician: Hidrófono
hydrophone in Croatian: Hidrofon
hydrophone in Indonesian: Hidropon
hydrophone in Dutch: Hydrofoon
hydrophone in Polish: Hydrofon
hydrophone in Portuguese: Hidrofone
hydrophone in Swedish: Hydrofon
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