UK team takes step towards ocean acidification monitor

Technological progress towards development of a cost-effective microsensor for long-term monitoring of ocean acidification has been made by a team at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre.

Working in close collaboration with oceanographers from the University of Southampton Ocean & Earth Science, which is based at the centre, the team has successfully tested a new device to measure pH levels in seawater. In its current form it can be used for shipboard analysis of seawater samples, but the ultimate aim is to further develop the design so that it can be deployed for long periods of time in the ocean, taking in situ measurements.

As well as monitoring global change due to rising CO2 levels, the sensors can be used to measure more localised human impact. The microsensors could be deployed to detect leakages from carbon capture and storage sites by measuring any proximal fluctuations in pH. The oil industry is also interested in this technology for monitoring seawater acidity around drilling sites.

The development work was funded by SENSEnet, a European Union Framework 7 project for the development of aquatic sensors, and the research expedition aboard the old RRS Discovery – which was in service until 2012 – was funded by the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme.

Collaborating institutes were the the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, the Uni Bjerknes Centre Norway and the University of Bergen.