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Instrumentation and sensor development

Feasibility study for the development and deployment of a multi-platform in situ spectrometer
Project Manager: Ken Johnson
Lead Scientist: Peter Girguis, Gernot Friederich
Lead Engineer: Jon Erickson


Many of the projects currently underway at MBARI require a means of quantifying environmental chemistry (e.g. jellyfish respiration at differing oxygen concentrations, clam distributions around sulfidic seeps, and hydrocarbon efflux from sediments). While MBARI is leading the development of specialized instrument packages for studying environmental chemistry, there is a need for an instrument that is capable of quickly and reliably quantifying a wide range of dissolved gasses and chemical compounds in situ. Mass spectrometers may detect the broadest range of compounds with a single detector.

Several other organizations have developed in situ mass spectrometers (ISMS) for deployment in the surface waters of oceans. An ISMS (specifically, a portable quadrapole mass spectrometer with an appropriate sample inlet system) allows the scientists to rapidly determine the in situ concentration of dissolved gasses and volatile chemical compounds with masses between 1 and 300 atomic mass units. The capabilities of an ISMS includes (but is not limited to) quantifying carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, sulfide, helium, and hydrogen concentrations, to name a few of the compounds of great interest to many MBARI researchers. 

We would like to lead a feasibility study into the development and of an ISMS for deployment on MBARIís ROVs. Development for use on AUVs may follow in a later funding cycle, pending the results of this study. The majority of the components  are available "off the shelf." MBARI engineers would develop the sampling system, and the means of integrating the instrument into ROV electronics. Given our experience with mass spectrometers and developing sampling systems for use at high pressure, we believe it is possible to design an instrument with modular sampling systems for a variety of tasks. We also believe this system should be lightweight, modular and extremely easy to use. Should this project be feasible, it will provide MBARI researchers with a rapid and reliable means of determining dissolved and volatile chemical concentrations in situ.