Underwater X-ray Spectrometer

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Mathematical & Physical Sciences


This application proposes to raise the technology readiness level (TRL) of an underwater X-ray spectrometer (UXRS) and bring the instrument to market rapidly. UXRS is a novel and robust industrial instrument that uses X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy to measure the elemental composition of materials in situ underwater. It is valuable for underwater inspection, shipwreck exploration, research, and salvage, defence and security, and ocean mining (OM). The UK has a golden opportunity in underwater machines. In 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron said OM would emerge as a £40B opportunity for the UK. Development of the industry has continued apace since then. OM does not displace indigenous people. It does not require building of new roads or permanent infrastructure. It results in less CO2 emission per tonne of metal produced than land mining. The quality of the ores is better than any on land. The world needs the Au, Ag, Co, Cu, Ti, Mn, Ni, and rare earth elements found on the seafloor in order for high tech industry and clean growth to succeed. The minerals are essential for electric car batteries, wind turbines, and indeed all modern electronics.

The project will produce two prototype UXRS, attach each to a small commercial ROV, test them in the laboratory, and then conduct sea trials. The project will also prepare to bring UXRS to market post project; first for shallow water applications and then later for deep water applications. This will bring technological, scientific, and economic benefits to the UK.


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