Postgraduate research project

Electrochemical sensing of the sea surface microlayer

Fully funded (UK and international)
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

The sea surface microlayer (SML) is the key interface between the oceans and the atmosphere. This is where atmospheric gases enter the ocean, where atmospheric particles deposit, where byproducts of biological activity accumulate, where pollutants concentrate (e.g. microplastics), where radioactive particles deposit and where oil slicks reside.

Despite its importance, its physical and chemical properties remain poorly known because it is very difficult to probe and sample accurately. Its thickness is ill-defined with reported figures ranging from tens of nm to mm; its viscosity, conductivity, chemical composition, and biological make up are virtually unknown. Even sampling the SML is challenging, let alone monitoring the composition continuously. Hence, there is a strong need to develop new physical methods and instrumentation to probe the SML.

The project proposes to develop individually addressable microelectrode arrays to perform in situ measurements at the air-sea water interface. These microelectrodes will be used to perform:

  • amperometric measurements (e.g. to assess the local concentration of heavy metals or dissolved oxygen)
  • impedance measurements to determine the local conductivity
  • potentiometric measurements (e.g. to probe the local pH)

For full project details visit the Inspire project page.


  • Dr Guy Denuault (University of Southampton)
  • Dr Peter Birkin (University of Southampton)
  • Professor Phil Warwick (University of Southampton)