By Joseph Carey
PUBLISHED: 00:43, Mon, Nov 13, 2017 | UPDATED: 17:45, Mon, Nov 13, 2017
A team of researchers at Dartmouth College and Columbia University discovered the trick after covering routers with “wireless reflectors” and seeing drastic changes in household internet performance.
Xia Zhou, an assistant professor who helped develop the hack, said: “Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users.
“Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure.
"With a simple investment of about $35 (£26) and specifying coverage requirements, a wireless reflector can be custom-built to outperform antennae that cost thousands of dollars.
GETTY â¢ Dartmouth CollegeThe trick extends Wi-Fi signals to reach household areas that are victims of weak internet speeds
Xia Zhou also exclusively told The Express: “The idea actually came out a couple years ago, from a conversation with my collaborator Changxi in Columbia, who is an expert in computer graphics and 3D fabrication.
“We thought it’d be interesting to explore how a 3D-fabricated reflector would affect Wi-Fi signals, and how much we can control the signal distribution by optimising the reflector shape.
“There was a YouTube video showing a soda can is able to enhance Wi-Fi signals. We’d like to do a more systematic study.
“I then came across Justin, an undergrad in Dartmouth looking for a senior thesis topic. I assigned this topic to him and we started the study.Mon, June 20, 2016
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“His preliminary results were intriguing. We published a workshop paper in 2015 on the high-level idea and the paper won Hot Paper Award.
“Justin graduated. We continued the study with my new PhD student Xi, who joined our lab in the fall of 2015. She greatly advanced the initial designs, conducted comprehensive experiments with a few other students at Dartmouth.
“We also started to collaborate with Ardalan in UC Irvine, who has done work in directional antennas. We compared our approach to existing directional antennas.
“Our results show that by wrapping a 3D-fabricated plastic reflector with a thin layer of metal, say your aluminium foil, we can actually create moderate change in Wi-Fi signal distribution, weakening signal in regions while strengthening signals in others.
“The best of it is that it is low cost and 3D printing is increasingly accessible. It lowers the barrier for regular users to control how they’d like their Wi-Fi signals to be distributed.
“In the future, we’d be interested in extending the approach to other wireless frequency bands, such as millimetre waves or visible light. Wireless signals in these high frequencies can be better reflected and we expect the fabricated reflector to be more effective.”
The researchers discovered that once a 3D-printed reflector wrapped in aluminium foil was placed over a router, signals were significantly increased.
The trick extends Wi-Fi signals to reach household areas that are victims of frustratingly weak internet speeds.
Results from the test showed that signals in unwanted areas can decrease by 10 decibels and can increase by 6 decibels where the signal boost is needed.
Dartmouth CollegeThe tinfoil investment will also make users less vulnerable to hackers
In addition to the reflector, the researchers also stated that similar results can also be produced by wrapping your router in cardboard.
The wavy structure of the reflector allows signals to be re-directed to parts of your house that typically escape a traditional router.
The tinfoil investment will also make users less vulnerable to hackers as the reflectors confine Wi-Fi signals to a limited area.
A typical router reflector can be produced by a 3D printer in approximately 23 minutes.
GETTYThe pattern of each reflector is set to vary depending on the layout of each household
The pattern of each reflector is set to vary depending on the layout of each household that uses the hack.
The new research was based on a previous idea of using fizzy drink cans to redirect router signals away from walls to increase internet strength.
Researchers will now examine the effects of reflectors made by different materials and explore the idea of an adapting reflector that will change shape in accordance with household layout changes.