In this article, we introduce a power-hopping technique (PH-MAC) that, by alternating between different transmission power levels, aims to deliberately cause packet capture and thereby reduce the impact of collisions in 802.11 WLANs. We first devise an analytical model of the 802.11 protocol with heterogeneous capture probabilities, and show that, depending on the network load, the capture effect can enhance the throughput performance of all nodes. We base the design of PH-MAC on the findings following from this analysis and demonstrate that important performance improvements can be achieved by exploiting the interactions between the MAC and PHY layers to mitigate collisions. Finally, to understand the feasibility of this technique in practical deployments, we present a prototype implementation of PH-MAC which relies on commodity hardware and open-source drivers. We evaluate the performance of this implementation in an indoor testbed under different network conditions in terms of link qualities, network loads and traffic types. The experimental results obtained show that our scheme can provide significant gains over the default 802.11 mechanism in terms of throughput, fairness and delay. (C) 2013 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.