You may think that putting tin foil on your TV antenna is just superstition, but it turns out that your grandparents might have been onto something. This time, though, you can use it to improve your internet use. Dartmouth University researchers have found that aluminum has the power to boost your Wi-Fi signal in certain situations.
Inspired by the homemade hack of placing an aluminum can behind a router to improve a Wi-Fi connection, this team of researchers developed a method that costs only $35 to produce. Not only does it improve your connection, but it offers better cybersecurity, too.
Researchers created custom reflectors by inputting data into their own program called WiPrint, which designed a plastic reflector that was then produced using a 3D printer. This special reflector allowed the team to shape Wi-Fi beams in specific ways to favor certain spaces over others. In practice, this could restrict your Wi-Fi access and signal to your own home or improve the signal in a specific room. They then wrapped the reflector in aluminum foil and placed it on a wireless router to improve the signal. According to the release, their 3D-printed reflector can boost a Wi-Fi signal by more than 50% (or decrease the signal in unwanted areas by 63%).
3D printers are becoming more ubiquitous all the time, with construction companies using them to print concrete and medical researchers utilizing them to perfect replacement limbs. You can even buy 3D doodlers that allow your kids to create their own toys from their drawings. And fortunately, this technology now offers better accessibility and affordability. In fact, the Dartmouth research team noted that their method costs only $35 (assuming you have 3D printer access), while high-tech antennas created to improve Wi-Fi signals cost far more.
So if you’re tired of living with unreliable Wi-Fi, you might not have to resort to a new router or provider. Although you’d need a 3D printer to design the optimal reflector shape, you can use regular old aluminum foil — which is an eco-friendly option to boot, since nearly 75% of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use due to recycling — to get a better wireless range and even improved security.
Although the WiPrint software has not yet been released, it may be only a matter of time before we’re using aluminum foil on our antennas once more. In the meantime, you can try your luck with a soda can behind your router.