Sensors for Measuring Carbon Dioxide, Bicarbonate, and pH in the Ocean

PI: Timothy M. Swager, MIT, Jeffrey Lang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Project Number:2017-R/RCM-50

Start Date:2017-02-01End Date:2019-01-31

Proposal Summary

Objectives: This proposal seeks to develop new generations of sensors that provide for precision determination of CO2, CO3H-, and pH levels in the ocean. Specifically, we seek to investigate new sensors that are economical and small with low power requirements, that can allow for the implementation of sensor networks that can monitor coastal marine eco-systems.

Methodology: We will create new sensory devices that are a hybrid of silicon-based field-effect transistors and electroactive organic molecules/polymers.  The organic materials are designed to have variable Fermi levels change with pH and CO3H- concentrations.  

Rationale: Persistent distributed monitoring of coastal waters is needed to understand the effects of river emissions and atmospheric perturbations on ocean ecology. Shallow regions are particularly sensitive with abundant shell fish and also provide a breeding ground that sustains a diversity of sea life. Deploying compact, low power, persistent, autonomous sensors will allow for critical spatial-temporal data that can develop models that can explain the origins of chemical changes. Ideally, sensors will be developed that can detect numerous chemical indicators that report on the health of the ocean. This study will focus on dissolved inorganic carbon and pH as key indicators and will seek to produce sensors that have high precision (0.001 pH units) over critical ranges. We also will implement methods that provide for high device stability to allow for extended autonomous operation.

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