Sensorbots to track ocean health round-the-clock

December 21st, 2011 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 21 (IANS) Scientists have discovered sensorbots equipped with bio-geo-chemical sensors that will monitor key events in the ocean like underwater earthquakes and hydrothermal vents. The device promises to open a new chapter in the exploration of the earth’s largest ecosystem.

The globe shaped devices are being designed and developed in the lab of Deirdre Meldrum, a professor at the Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

The Sensorbots will enable continuous monitoring of key elements in the ocean and the ability to respond to events such as underwater earthquakes and hydrothermal vents.

Much of Meldrum’s genomic research focuses on deep ocean environments and leverages her extensive technology development for human health and disease, a university statement said.

As Meldrum explains, the Sensorbot project significantly expands the scope of oceanographic investigations carried out by Biodesign’s Centre for Biosignatures Discovery Automation.

“Such research is essential for a more thorough understanding of the multiple systems in the oceans-microbes and other sea life, geology, and chemicals,” said Meldrum.

The current Sensorbots are fist-sized transparent robotic orbs, which communicate via brilliant blue flashes of light. The spheres house electronics and batteries, while their surfaces have three sensors for measuring pH (acidity), temperature or oxygen.

A high-speed camera situated on the seafloor picks up the signals and stores them for decoding aboard the ship. As sensorbot technology develops, these orbs may blanket large areas of the ocean and transmit information regularly to a central data hub.

Ultimately, Sensorbots will be capable of operating in semi-autonomous robotic swarms, moving under remote control, in a 3D geometric formation through precisely controlled volumes of seawater.

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