Mass spectrometer survey success in underwater vehicle

Use of a mass spectrometer in underwater surveys as part of the surveying vehicle has been successfully demonstrated by SRI International of Menlo Park, California, USA.

SRI claims “unprecedented capabilities” for underwater chemical surveys with its in-situ membrane introduction mass spectrometry (MIMS) device integrated into a Bluefinଡ଼12 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) developed and manufactured by Bluefin Robotics.

The sensitivity, specificity, and versatility of mass spectrometry enable in‑water identification and analysis of a wide range of chemicals. Most underwater analytical equipment is tethered to a surface vessel, restricting the ability for continuous monitoring and testing, while at the same time increasing the costs, complexities and risks associated with advanced hydrocarbon monitoring.

“The ability to combine highly sensitive and calibrated mass spectrometry with AUVs gives researchers and industry a new tool for critical underwater survey applications,” said Timothy Short, manager of the Marine & Space Sensing Group in the Space & Marine Technology Program at SRI. “The integrated SRI-Bluefin solution is unprecedented for its ease of deployment, advanced survey capabilities, and reduced cost of operations.”

The capabilities of the SRI MIMS device integrated into the Bluefin-12 AUV platform addresses complex survey and data collection challenges associated with ocean monitoring and exploration, including an enhanced ability to differentiate hydrocarbon sources (eg, biogenic versus thermogenic) and high-fidelity baseline measurements to understand with greater accuracy the impact of drilling in specific areas.