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Voltammetric autonomous measuring probes for trace metals in the water column (500m, maximum depth) and at water-sediment interfaces (6000m, maximum depth)

In this project, two systems have been built for the autonomous measurement of trace metal concentration in the water column and at the water-sediment interface. The two systems are based on voltammetric microelectrode arrays, so that in the two cases, the development of the sensor and voltammeter have been similar. The characteristics and innovative aspects of the two systems are the following.

The voltammetric probe for the water column is usable in the water column down to 500 m, and controlled either by an operator from a ship, or automatically by computer, when attached to a buoy. The system has an autonomy of 1-2 weeks, and is able to transmit automatically the data to the land station by radio, telephone or satellite communication. It is programmable to determine concentration profiles between 0 and 500m routinely, in conditions chosen by the user (time period, depth resolution, etc).

The water-sediment interface microprofiler has been built to determine concentration profiles of lead, cadmium and manganese ions (possibly also copper and iron (II) ions) at the water-sediment interface, with submillimetre resolution. Microelectrode arrays with antifouling gel, similar to those for the water column are used, but with individually addressable electrodes. Measurements are possible down to 6000m. Voltammetric data acquisition and computer control of the probe at depth are possible. Communication and control of the probe are also possible either by cable (at shallow depths) or by acoustic telemetry.

The two systems are the first existing probes for the determination in situ, in real time, of trace metal concentration in the water column and at the water-sediment interface. They are based on a number of advanced technologies, and include several scientific and analytical innovative aspects.

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