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Ocean acidification monitoring using novel sensing technologies on marine autonomous platforms

Project Description

Project Rationale:

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the ocean has become more acidic due to uptake of atmospheric CO2, a process that is projected to continue under current scenarios. Monitoring ocean acidification (dubbed the evil twin of global warming) with ship-based measurements cannot address the urgent need for high spatial and temporal resolution of in situ measured pH. Swarms of small, intelligent and low-cost autonomous robotic vehicles could address this challenge as soon as small, fast, low power, and reliable pH sensors have reached technology readiness.

The Ocean Technology and Engineering group at NOC and ANB Sensors Ltd. are world leaders in developing ocean sensor technology. The purpose of this project is to optimize and validate a new electrochemical pH sensor for autonomous measurements on a wide range of autonomous vehicles (Autosubs, Gliders, USVs, floats) and couple that with state of the art lab-on-a-chip spectrophotometric sensing technology, thus combining fast electrochemical measurements, needed for fast profiling/moving platforms, with robust high accuracy spectrophotometric readings. The successful candidate will work with scientists and engineers in the laboratory at NOC and with the team at ANB Sensors in their laboratories in Haslingfield, Cambridge, CB23 1JZ, as well as in the field during a number of scheduled sea-going expeditions.


The aim of this project is to develop fast, small and inexpensive electrochemical sensors and integrate them with high accuracy lab-on-a-chip sensor technology(1) for use on existing underwater vehicles for high-frequency pH monitoring in oceanic waters. This will build upon the electrochemical sensor technology being developed by ANB Sensors and lab-on-a-chip sensor technology developed at NOC. The smart, easy to use electrochemical pH sensor is based on innovative chemistry (patent applications GB1609669.5 and GB1609716.4) in which polymer embedded chemicals permit the voltammetric determination of pH across a wide pH range (pH 2-10) and buffer strengths. This voltammetric technique overcomes the issues associated with conventional single point potentiometric measurements(2,3). Combining fast (> 1Hz) electrochemical readings with robust, high-accuracy measurements from Lab-on-a-chip pH, total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) sensors presents a powerful sensing tool for autonomous platform-based monitoring of ocean acidification. Engineering challenges associated with miniaturization, integration of sensing technologies and calibrating/testing will be addressed as part of this studentship. Once integrated, the sensor package will be deployed on a number of marine autonomous platforms in different marine settings. The successful student will work with the development, optimization and integration of these novel technologies and their validation in the laboratory and during sea-going campaigns.


The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and will be hosted by the Ocean Technology and Engineering Group at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. Specific training will include: the science and metrology of carbon dioxide and the dissolved carbonate system, autonomous systems and their application to carbon observing, instrumentation development, analytical chemistry and sensor engineering. ANB Sensors will provide training in electrochemistry through hands-on development work at ANB Laboratories and attendance of the Electrochemical Sensors course held in association with Cambridge University. In addition, ANB Sensors will utilize their in-house expertise of Intellectual Property Law (company director being a patent attorney) to provide training on the basis Intellectual Property.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


1. Analytica Chimica Acta, 2013, 786,124
2. J. Solid State Electrochem., 2004, 8, 718,
3. Electroanalysis, 2015, 27, 917

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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