RamaCam - In situ holographic imaging and chemical spectroscopy for long term scalable analysis of marine particles in deep-sea environments

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment

Abstract

While modern day ocean sensors are capable of measuring the concentration of chemicals dissolved in seawater to such high sensitivities that we rarely need to sample them, many chemicals form tiny particles in seawater, often with diameters smaller than the width of a human hair, and these act as a blind spot for most of today's sensors. The only way to study these particles in detail, is to recover samples and analyse them in a laboratory. Marine particles include plankton, dead skin shed from whales and fish, faecal pellets as well as micro-plastics and other types of human litter. If you took a bottle of seawater from the surface of the ocean and compared it to seawater from the deep-sea, the number of large particles would be much higher in the surface water, because light from the sun provides energy that can be used by plankton, which form a large proportion of the particles where sunlight can reach within 200 m of the ocean surface. At the same time, we also know that most particles sink, and so it is important for us to understand why there are so few particles in the deep-sea, how much material is sinking to the seafloor, what it is made out of, how fast it sinks, and what proportion of it makes it back up to the sea surface or gets washed on-shore. The reason this is important, is that particles that sink to the seafloor are thought to play an important role in removing carbon from our atmosphere. At the same time, scientists are worried that litter and plastics may accumulate on the seafloor and damage the fragile seafloor ecosystems that exist at an average depth of more than 3800 m below the ocean's surface.

The aim of this project, is to demonstrate new ways in which we can improve our ability to study the distribution of different types of particles in the deep-sea. The sensor that will be developed will analyse large volumes of seawater, almost 2/3 of a drinks can a second, in order to gather data in the deep-sea where the relative number of particles is small. The sensor will count the number of particles that pass through it, study their appearance and also perform laser based chemical analysis to identify what these particles are made out of. An important aspect of this work is to achieve this in a compact, low power way. The last point is important to allow large numbers of this new type of sensor to be used to study vast regions of the ocean for several years at a time. This innovative work will be carried out by researchers based in the UK and in Japan, both island nations with a long history of marine research, who will combine their expertise to overcome the difficult challenges that are involved in achieving our goal. By helping researchers in the future achieve a better understanding how particles in the ocean behave, and this can in turn help our governments decide what kinds of policies need to be put in place to preserve our ocean and our atmosphere.

Planned Impact

The challenges addressed by this project have a direct, long term impact on natural environment and resource management in the oceans, lakes and rivers. On decadal timescales, sustaining these environments and their ecosystems will contribute to the economy and social well-being of the general public through job creation (e.g. sustaining tourism and industrial activity developing resources) and security (e.g. providing clean/safe food and water, understanding risks posed by global hazards such as ocean acidification and climate change). On shorter timescales (5 to 10 years), monitoring the impacts of waste (e.g. carbon emission, micro-plastics) and industrial activities (e.g. deep-sea/coastal mining) on the biogeochemical cycles that sustain water environments can help ground estimates of the socioeconomic costs associated with anthropogenic activities through efforts such as those of Earth Economics [1]. This can be used to help governmental agencies formulate effective conservation and resource management policies. In the more immediate future (<5 years), the growing recognition of anthropogenic impacts on the environment and the need for sustained monitoring drives governments and industry services to consider the best practices for environmental monitoring. The associated costs are directly coupled to the technologies that can be adopted and deployed in mass to make observations at the required metrology, spatial and temporal scales. Efforts to define these parameters underpinned by the activities of groups such as GOOS [2].

This research will demonstrate key sensing concepts that will fill a gap in our ability to observe the abundance and composition of particles in natural water environments over the necessary spatial and temporal scales. While particles play a key role that influences biogeochemical fluxes in these environments, many types of particles, including biochemical essential ocean variables, minerals and micro-plastics, can only be monitored by recovering samples using oceanographic research vessels that cost ~£20k per day of operation, where routine monitoring efforts typically last several days to weeks and are carried out at least once a year. The short term impact of developing sensors to replace these efforts is a reduction of survey costs by reduced reliance on expensive research vessels. The longer term benefits are improved understanding of how particles influence biogeochemical processes. The research is a proof of sensor concept (TRL 4), where the most effective way to ensure its outcomes benefits the identified chain of impacts is to work closely with stake holders invested in the short term activities and impacts. These are identified as,
- technology manufacturers with a track record of making sensors widely available to the marine research community,
- commercial survey companies and statutory monitoring agencies who can establish operational protocols for use of the conceptualised sensor in order to accelerate the adoption of technology once it becomes available, and
- data handling groups who can define formats and metadata requirements to make data collected by the sensor accessible to its stakeholders.
Manufacturer can potentially benefit by commercializing the technology developed in this work. Survey agencies, in particular those in the commercial sector can benefit by becoming early adopters of the technology and working alongside researchers to develop best practices and establish survey protocols. Data handling groups stand to benefit by hosting data that is widely accessed and utilized by a broad range of research organisations, monitoring agencies and policy makers. In order to ensure that the opportunities to benefit from this research are realized, prominent groups active in these areas in the UK and Japan have been identified and approached, with several of these providing letters of support.

[1] http://www.eartheconomics.org/
[2] http://www.goosocean.org/
 
Description We have demonstrated that high-resolution holographic images of particles can be successfully obtained using a continuous wave laser combined with a high-speed camera shutter. Previously it was necessary to use pulsed lasers, which are expensive, to take unblurred images of moving particles

We demonstrated that laser Raman measurements of particles can be performed in-line, meaning that the same same laser beam as the above mentioned holography can be used to simultaneously make chemical measurements. We further show that this can be used to distinguish between different types of microplastics.
Exploitation Route These methods (in line Raman spectroscopy of particles and continuous wave laser holography of moving particles) have previously been demonstrate and can allow for significant simplification of these analytical techniques for applications in liquids.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Environment

 
Description The PI has been approached by a 3rd party who is interested in leveraging the technology. The terms are subject to an NDA. A competitively won research expedition to demonstrate methods developed in this work will take place in Early 2020 (March/April). This will be lead by our collaborators in JAMSTEC and the University of Tokyo.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment
 
Description Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) - Rapid Impact Innovation Scheme
Amount £180,377 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2022
 
Description In-situ Vent Analysis Divebot for Exobiology Research (InVADER), NASA - International Collaborator
Amount $0 (USD)
Funding ID 80NSSC18K1651 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 07/2018 
End 06/2022
 
Description The University of Tokyo 
Organisation University of Tokyo
Department Institute of Industrial Science
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Southampton is developing a long-range 3D imaging system for use on Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. The University of Tokyo has a long history of successful research in visual mapping using underwater robots.. The goals of the project and skill sets of the 2 groups are mutually complementary. Data has been collected from coral reefs off Sesoko, which both groups have contributed to data collection and data processing. This has also lead to a collaboration grant between these groups funded by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese foundation.
Collaborator Contribution The University of Tokyo provided platforms on which to mount 3D imaging systems and time on board research vessels to monitor coral reefs off Sesoko.
Impact Data has been collected and high-resolution 3D maps of coral reefs have been generated. Seminars have been given both in the UK and Japan to promote the respective projects.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 62nd Underwater and Seafloor Technology Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited talk given at the Universit of Tokyo, Japan to an audience of ~200, including 2 philanthropic organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.iis.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ja/news/2984/
 
Description BBC focus magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The technology solving the ocean's greatest mysteries: Featured RamaCam and related ocean expedition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.sciencefocus.com/planet-earth/the-technology-solving-the-oceans-greatest-mysteries/
 
Description Beyond Challenger: a new age of deep-sea science and exploration 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation was delivered at the Royal Society, London entitled "Whole site multi-resolution photogrammetric surveys of deep-sea vents and cold seeps".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2018/11/beyond-challenger/
 
Description Lindsay DJ. High-performance imaging surveys. Subsea observatory in the South Pacific and its surrounding ocean: scientific frontiers and technical challenges, Noumea, New Caledonia,France, 19 September 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lindsay DJ. High-performance imaging surveys. Subsea observatory in the South Pacific and its surrounding ocean: scientific frontiers and technical challenges, Noumea, New Caledonia,France, 19 September 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description OSA article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Light-Based System Lays Foundation for Continuous Monitoring of Ocean Plastic Particles
Tracking microplastics over time could reveal insights into how they accumulate in the ocean. introducing RamaCam and its use for monitoring microplastics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/news_releases/2020/light-based_system_lays_foundation_f...
 
Description Presentation and poster in exhibitors booth of Oceans 2018, Kobe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented project and poster at the exhibitor's booth at the Japan Pavillion at Oceans 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ocean.soton.ac.uk/ramacam
 
Description The optical society newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Light-based system lays foundation for continuous monitoring of ocean plastic particles: Article written to introduce the RamaCam system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://phys.org/news/2020-06-light-based-foundation-ocean-plastic-particles.html
 
Description Youtube videos on Adaptive Robotics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Youtube videos uploaded during the Adaptive Robotics expedition, searchable via #Adaptive Robotics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQVnabh45u4