A team of scientists and engineers from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is heading to the USA to take part in a high-profile international competition to develop pH sensors to measure changes in the acidity of the ocean.
NOC is one of only two organisations representing the UK in the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, which is offering a total prize fund of (US) $2million for the development of accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors to improve our understanding of ocean acidification.
The four-phase competition has attracted major players from the scientific community around the world and there are twenty-three organisations taking part. The NOC team has successfully passed Phase 1 and are travelling to California this month for Phase 2, which involves testing the sensor in a lab.
NOC is well-renowned for developing world-leading oceanographic sensors and the pH sensor it has entered into the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE competition is unique. Very small in size, it is based on a microfluidic design, which requires very small volumes of seawater to generate a reading. It is also being designed as an autonomous system able to operate on a number of oceanographic platforms and down to depths of several thousand metres.
Team leader, Dr Socratis Loucaides, said: “We are very proud of the new technology we are developing at NOC and are pleased to be taking part in this high-profile international competition. Our team of designers, engineers and scientists have worked incredibly hard over the past few years to develop this innovative sensor, which can accurately detect very small changes in ocean acidity, offering greater understanding of the changes that are taking place.”
The aim of the competition is to develop equipment that can detect small changes in ocean acidity over time caused by atmospheric CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels. The sensors are being judged on a series of criteria including accuracy, precision, ease-of-use and affordability.
Following the lab testing phase in September, successful teams will take part in coastal and ocean trials, with the final awards ceremony taking place next July.