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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Miniature sensors will measure the health of the oceans

Published: 6 May 2011

The first miniature sensors designed to measure saltiness and temperature across the world’s oceans are currently in use as part of an ambitious expedition.

A four-man team of officers from Swanton Morley, UK, are rowing 3,100 miles from Australia to Mauritius in a voyage that began in mid-April.

They aim to raise £100,000 for charities including the Light Dragoons Charitable Trust and the Mark Evison Foundation by rowing in two-hour shifts for 24 hours a day in an attempt to complete their mission in less than 68 days.

As well as raising money for charity, the expedition provides an opportunity to measure ocean conditions and provide valuable information about climate change.

The boat is fitted with sensors to measure ocean temperature and salinity. The technology was developed by Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) professors Hywel Morgan, and Xi Huang of the University of Southampton, along with Dr Matt Mowlem of Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre (NOCS).

According to Professor Morgan, these are the first miniature sensors that can measure these parameters with extremely high precision.

"There are large bulky devices that measure these parameters, but no miniature sensors that come close to what these chips can do," says Professor Morgan.

The expedition has given the ECS researchers an opportunity to test the sensors and to assess their application in areas such as ocean meteorology and water quality monitoring, and as fish tags.

The longer-term plan is to commercialise the sensors and the researchers have just received £150,000 from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to develop them further and to integrate them into devices.

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