Researchers at the
Professor Hywel Morgan and Dr Matt Mowlem and colleagues from across the university have received a grant of £1.75m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to continue their work in developing sensors to measure marine environments.
They will develop laboratory on a chip (LOAC) technology and fabricate a new generation of integrated micro-devices and sensors capable of operating in harsh environments, without bulky, expensive and power hungry support systems.
According to Professor Morgan, marine environmental sensing has reached a bottleneck where further advances in knowledge and understanding of ecosystems can only be obtained if a new generation of sensors is created.
The proposal has two strands: to develop a lab-on-a-chip chemical and biochemical analyser to detect nutrients and pollutants at the ultra low concentrations found in the ocean, and to develop small chips to identify individual phytoplankton in the oceans. The sensing packages will be deployed by strapping them to vehicles including profiling (ARGO) floats that already give detailed information on the temperature and salinity of the oceans.
According to the university, the development of these biogeochemical sensors over the next four years will provide a new technology platform for marine scientists and have applications for many allied activities such as those undertaken by the water industry, in environmental impact assessments and in monitoring ship ballast water.
‘We believe that the co-ordinated development of microfabricated devices across this broad front in marine sensing will be a world first,’ said Professor Morgan.