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Content archived on 2024-04-30

Micro analytical system for total organic Carbon in seawater


Organic matter in the oceans has recently been recognised as one of the earth's major reservoirs of carbon and its precise role in the global carbon cycle remains unclear. This reservoir is now seen as a potential sink for anthropogenic carbon deposited as atmospheric CO2 and organic carbon compounds released into riverine and marine ecosystems. The Total Organic Carbon parameter (TOC) is currently regarded as critically important for modelling climate change and the development of sustainable ecosystems through cleaner technologies and life styles.
Several measuring systems for TOC have been developed in the past but most of these systems suffer significant drawbacks when used for marine analysis. Subsequently, the global dissolved organic carbon budget may have been previously underestimated because of inaccurate analytical techniques. The current methodologies and commercially available instrumentation are often inadequate with respect to on-site determinations and the transport of samples to the laboratory leads to biased results. As a consequence, interlaboratory comparisons of TOC analysis frequently show differences by more than one order of magnitude. More accurate and reliable instrumentation for TOC measurements in seawater are urgently required to enable the evaluation of small but real and significant changes that occur in marine ecosystems which are vitally important in the total global carbon balance.
The main objective of the proposed research project is the development of a miniaturized demonstration prototype for the detection of TOC that can be further developed to an autonomous analysis system for measuring TOC directly at the location of sampling.
As one of the key problems of TOC instrumentation is an incorrect and irreproducible oxidation of the organic compounds, the proposed project will focus on basic research in the promising photocatalytic oxidation of relevant organic species resulting in the development of a reliable low power oxidation unit.
This new photocatalytic oxidation unit will be integrated in a micro analytical system using microfluidic sub-systems and additionally, an innovative calibration-free coulometric CO2 micro sensor. Different state-of-the-art key technologies will be employed in the TOC instrumentation, benefiting from research activities in the European Union in the field of analytical instrumentation, microsystem technology and marine technology. Ultimately, this project is related to aspects of standardisation and harmonisation of measurement equipment technology as well as measurement methods. The design and breadboarding of a new miniaturised, on-site TOC-analyser for marine field conditions (surface or submarine deployment) is a considerable challenge for the project partners. It will improve the quality of European science and industry in the area of analytical instrumentation since new innovative methologies and a totally new product will be developed and patented for the future world market which will be of considerable added value. Such an initiative will be an important contribution to world-wide activities such as within the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Grand Challenges of the European Committee for Ocean and Polar Research (ECOPS).

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Institut für Chemo- und Biosensorik e.V.
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Mendelstrasse 7
48149 Münster

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