Undersea snapper

A revolutionary 3D holographic camera that gives scientists a greater understanding of marine life will be on display at the Oceans ‘07 conference in Aberdeen which kicks off in the city next week.

The underwater camera can take 3D images of living organisms and particles in their natural environment in a non-intrusive and non-destructive way and will help enhance our awareness of the environment and provide a better understanding of the health of the oceans.

Unlike conventional stills or video, the camera records 3D holograms. These holograms can be recorded underwater to give 3D images of plankton – the tiny subsea organisms on which much marine life depends. These organisms range in size from a few microns to several millimetres.

A study of this life form is essential for marine biologists in their drive to understand the oceans and its influence on our global environment.

The camera, known as eHolocam, has been developed by a research team at the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with CDL of Aberdeen, which specialises in offshore instrumentation, and Elforlight of Daventry, which develops novel solid state lasers.

Unlike the holograms that are seen on credit cards, these holograms are recorded entirely digitally on an electronic sensor, similar to the ones which can be found in any video camera. The electronic holographic videos contain full 3D information and, importantly, also capture the fourth dimension, namely time. Processing of the images takes place entirely electronically and the images can be displayed on any PC or laptop.

Holography can provide marine biologists with information that has been difficult or impossible to obtain by other means. The developers hope that, as the power and benefits of the technique are realised, the system will find widespread use amongst the marine biological community and will prove to be an invaluable tool in biological science.

eHoloCam has been deployed on four occasions over the last 18 months in the North Sea and the Faroes channel in the North Atlantic from the RV Scotia, a research vessel owned by the Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen.

Over 290 digital holographic videos were recorded containing several thousand individual holograms of plankton and other marine organisms and particles. The deepest hologram recorded was at a depth of 450m.