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SENSEOCEAN Report Summary

Project ID: 614141
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - SENSEOCEAN (SenseOCEAN: Marine sensors for the 21st Century)

Project Context and Objectives:
This project draws together established and world leading marine sensor developers with previous EU project experience, including 5 SMEs, from across Europe to develop a new in situ marine biogeochemical system that is highly integrated, multifunctional, cost-effective and deployable on a mass scale. This collaborative project will provide significant advances in the ability to quantify a suite of biogeochemical parameters that are hard to measure but crucial to the scientific understanding of the oceans, management of ocean resources, in situ calibration / validation of satellite Earth Observation data, and the supply of data for development of advanced biogeochemical models. It will innovate and combine state of the art sensor technologies (microfabrication, lab on chip, micro and calibration free electrochemical sensors, multiparameter optodes, multispectral optical sensors) in a modular system that can be deployed across multiple ocean and environmental platforms. Prototypes will be optimized for scale up and commercialization including preparation of data flow and data management architectures. These will be tested and demonstrated on profiling floats, deep-sea observatories, autonomous underwater vehicles, and fishing vessels. Specific objectives are:

• The development of a cost-effective, small, integrated in situ marine sensor system that measures key biogeochemical parameters and is suitable for deployment in large numbers to address measurement over wide geographical and temporal scales. The novel package of sensors will be delivered by the end of the project, by which time they will have undergone thorough development and testing, including ‘real-world’ field testing. Further to this an assessment of the commercial viability of the developed sensors and legal protection for the developed systems will be in place.

• Production of high performance analytical systems giving improved limits of detection and accuracy for pH, pCO2, Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC), Alkalinity, O2, NH4+, N2O, NO2-, NO3-, PO43-, SiO44-, Fe, Mn, Coloured Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM), Chlorophylls, photopigments, primary production, organic fluorophores, photosynthetically available radiation, optical backscatter, irradiance, radiance and transmittance in integrated systems.

• Delivery of state of the art resource (e.g. chemicals, batteries) supply and management using pressure balanced batteries and chemical “printer cartridge” cassettes. This represents a move towards a common core technology for the sensors.

• Delivery of modular hardware and software interfaces for multiple platforms e.g. ocean gliders and profiling floats as part of project members Glider Observatories and bio-Argo initiatives. This represents the development of the modular systems, the integrated systems and subsequent testing on observatories, AUV’s, buoys etc.

• Delivery of operational state of the art data management architectures conforming to internationally agreed formats with outputs of real time data and a post processed data product via existing international services.

• Web enablement to allow real-time control / access to sensor settings and data.

• Innovation in analytical technologies that can be easily applied to a wider list of parameter, e.g. the microfluidic platform could be used for further inorganic assays, or as biosensors for organics and nucleic acids. An overarching goal of SenseOCEAN is to ensure that the systems developed have the potential to be exploited for different environmental applications.

• Direct stakeholder (including fisheries, marine industry, regulators) engagement via consortium partners and our advisory panel. It is important that the sensors we produce are those required by our end user stakeholders and the data produced can inform other stakeholders to best environmental practices.

Project Results:
The second period of the SenseOCEAN project has been an extremely busy and productive one. We have made significant advances at the individual sensor level and at moving towards a de facto standard for true ‘plug and play’ multifunctional sensor development and operation. This is through a shared system of data management, power and resource management and communication both with the individual sensors on our multifunctional sensor platform and the wider world using standardized data output via the internet.

We have continued to push our sensors along the technology readiness level, with the aim of getting as near to market as possible. Our multiparameter fluorimeter is the most advanced of our sensors and is already being marketed. We have fully operational electrochemical sensors for nitrous oxide, phosphate and silicate. New optodes for in situ determination of pH and ammonia have been developed and in a significant step, a multi-analyte optode system has been designed. We have developed a new process for the manufacture of sensor spots; reducing costs and increasing the quality of the spots. There have been significant advances in the development of our suite of lab on chip sensors, both in the range of analytes, the sensitivity of the sensors and the miniaturization and cost savings in manufacturing them.

We have now tested all of our new sensors on the bench and some are already deployed in the field. We have just completed a wide ranging testing exercise in Kiel, both from a shore side pontoon and in the deeper waters using a CTD from a ship. The testing went very well as for the first time we employed the multiparameter sensor in a real environment and used a number of different types of sensor. This was one of the first exercises of its kind and marks a step change in the technology to measure important environmental analytes. Some highlights were the measurement of pH by two different techniques, employing 4 different optodes alongside a lab on chip wet chemistry technique. We also did sensor-based measurements of nutrients, dissolved iron, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, sodium and oxygen. All of the sensors performed well and our approach of using a common core system for data collection and electronic control proved to be extremely efficient and enabled true integration of the data from the various sensors. The use of the sensors detected changes in the environment, both on the pontoon, and deployed on a CTD, that would have been missed by traditional single point sample collection. This field trial of the combined sensors is in addition to a continuing test program for the sensors in stand alone mode, for instance the lab on chip nitrate sensor has now been deployed in a UK harbor for 16 months, we deployed 18 optodes to determine dissolved oxygen in sediments on a crawler in the Arctic and and a set of optodes for oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH were combined and deployed in the Baltic Sea. These tests are important for determining the robustness of the particular sensors involved, including the impact of fouling and engineering quality, in different challenging real world environments. Whilst there is obviously more to do this was an exciting time for the members of the SenseOCEAN community and has encouraged the whole team as we move forward into the final year of the project.

We have continued to promote the SenseOCEAN project as well as engaging with other projects from the Ocean of Tomorrow (OoT) call to highlight the technical and commercial developments from the projects. We had a very successful showcase opportunity at the Oceanology International meeting in London this year; we had a display area where we demonstrated a suite of new sensors from across the projects, and a special session of talks presenting highlights from the projects. We have continued to highlight the potential of our sensors at trade shows and scientific meetings in both Europe and across the world. At the time of this report we have 9 publications as a result of the project and 4 patents either issued or in progress.

As we move into the final year of the project we will see an increase in the outputs from the project with expected publications from a wider use of the developed sensors, and a greater effort in project outreach and engagement with the wider scientific and commercial communities. Immediate plans are for a special issue of Frontiers in Marine Science on the Oceans of Tomorrow projects and marine sensors in general, a special article to appear on the IOCCP (International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project) website, and in the near future all of the OoT projects will develop the combined policy document as one of our final joint deliverables.

Potential Impact:
This project will have a significant and lasting impact by delivering enhanced European capability in integrated low cost autonomous sensing technologies. Bringing together leading experts from across Europe will allow technological advances to be delivered more efficiently while developing a European knowledge base.

Sensors for the high performance in situ measurement of key biogeochemical parameters (many for the first time) including chlorophyll, nutrients (e.g. nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, ammonia), pollutants (e.g. phosphate, nitrate), pH, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and dissolved gases are now in advanced states of development.

A modular approach to the design of the sensors is producing a toolbox of components and systems that can be combined and reused in subsequent technology developments. This includes modules enabling pressure balancing (obviating the need for large pressure housings), miniaturised low power and resource consumption systems. One of the key modules wis the command, data processing and logging electronics – this has a standardised interface allowing interoperability with a wide range of autonomous platforms and commercial sensors.

The development of these sensors will enable the provision of improved data that will lead to advances in environmental science, resource management and regulatory monitoring. For example, in environmental science, improved spatial and temporal data will enable development of biogeochemical models to improve predictions of climate and environmental change as well as allowing the observation and management of the effects of climate change.

In terms of resource management, cost effective widespread characterisation of the marine biogeochemical environment will enable measurement and managed response to anthropogenic and natural effects on fisheries and the tourist economy. The cost of implementing regulatory monitoring (e.g. EU Water Framework Directive) will be reduced and a more accurate determination of environmental response will be enabled.

Collaborations set up between the institutions in this consortium will not only have an immediate impact during the funding period of the project, but will also have an impact on the future of sensor development in the EU. This large integrated project will attract some of the brightest new researchers in the field, The sensors developed will provide grounding and direction for further developments but more specifically, the training of early stage researchers by leaders in the field will result in an injection of young, highly qualified and well known researchers into sensor development.

From a socioeconomic perspective, the scientific, resource management and regulatory use of the tools developed by this research will promote the decoupling of growth from resource depletion. This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing our society, and is now an economic necessity. This knowledge will promote understanding of resources as limited and finite. At a more immediate and pragmatic level the project will develop autonomous sensing technologies to a level that will allow them to move to market as a next step. It will develop new products of societal and commercial value. It will result in the production of market ready prototypes, and will vigorously pursue future exploitation of this technology (not least in collaboration with industrial partners in the consortium). It will enhance collaboration between, scientists, technologists, Universities, research institutions, and industry promoting a holistic approach. It will develop new markets in science, resource management and regulatory applications, as well as others (e.g. process industry, shipping), which will be investigated.

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