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Optical Sedimentation Recorder (OSR) for Tracking the Ocean's Carbon Flux

IB-2196

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:

  • In appearance and size similar to a compressed gas cylinder, the OSR is a multi-platform instrument that:

    • Precisely measures the ocean’s hourly variations of sedimentation of particulate inorganic and organic carbon material for seasons to years
    • Combines these measurements in real time (transmitting data via satellite), enabling a first-ever view of the daily changes in particulate carbon sedimentation
    • Has a neutrally buoyant embodiment that has been demonstrated on autonomous ocean profiling floats and a heavier-than-water embodiment demonstrated tethered below a surface buoy.  Deployment on moorings is also possible. 

ADVANTAGES:

  • Makes possible the continuous tracking of biological processes within the ocean’s carbon cycle. It is the only way to achieve accurate, reliable, direct, and frequent monitoring of particulate carbon sedimentation on a global scale.
  • Demonstrated avoidance of the biofouling problems of other technologies by resting at depths in the ocean below the euphotic (photosynthesizing) zone, where plant and animal life are most abundant.
  • Can be combined with LBNL’s Carbon Explorer float for superior geographical coverage (even in severe, icy weather). Unlike other technologies, it can operate under almost any conditions in the deep sea.
  • Systems have been extensively tested and refined during deployment tests in harsh sea conditions and month-plus long missions.

ABSTRACT:

Ocean photosynthesis, performed by microscopic phytoplankton, is the first stage of the ocean’s natural carbon sequestration mechanism. However, the biological and physical components of this process remain poorly understood because of the fragmentary, costly nature of ship-based or moored observation studies, extreme weather and oceanic conditions, and the extremely rapid life cycles of ocean phytoplankton. Without the ability to accurately observe these daily changes in ocean life cycles, over vast spatial scales, researchers lack the ability to predict how the biotic ocean carbon cycle will respond to rising CO2 levels and resulting acidification of surface waters, crippling the ability to develop accurate models of global warming or devise strategies to prevent it.

The critical, and unprecedented, Optical Sedimentation Recorder (OSR) measurement for understanding the ocean’s carbon sequestration capacity is the rate at which carbon moves downward in the water (called carbon flux or sedimentation). The OSR builds on Berkeley Lab’s ocean profiling robotic Carbon Explorer (Bishop et al. 2004; Bishop and Wood 2008) which determines Carbon Flux Index (CFI) by conducting a particulate reading at the end of its sleep cycle (before another session of information gathering is to begin). The particles accumulated on a transmissometer sensor over that sleep period are washed off, and then another reading is taken. The CFI is the difference between the two readings, divided by the time that the Carbon Explorer was “sleeping” at a particular depth.

The OSR records images of newly sedimented particles with three precisely controlled modes of illumination, thus providing needed detail of the composition (organic and inorganic carbon) and nature of sedimented particles. On board software enables reduction of image data for real time relay via satellite.  Along with temperature and salinity data from the conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth (CTD) sensor, this carbon flux measurement can tell us how effectively ocean carbon sequestration is working at a given location in the water.

The OSR, conceived by Berkeley Lab’s James K. B. Bishop was developed solely at LBNL.

STATUS:

  • Published Patent Application WO 2009/064373 available at www.wipo.int. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

To learn more about licensing a technology from LBNL see http://www.lbl.gov/Tech-Transfer/licensing/index.html.

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2196

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Last updated: 12/20/2012