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Marine Electronics

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June 2012 Issue

‘Microsubmarines’ Designed to Clean Up Oil Spills
Engineers based in Spain and from the University of California, Santa Barbara, have developed and successfully tested the first self-propelled “microsubmarines” designed to pick up droplets of oil from contaminated waters and transport them to collection facilities.

Their report, published in ACS Nano in April, concludes that these tiny machines could play an important role in cleaning up oil spills, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico.

Different versions of microengines have been developed previously, including devices that could transport medications through the bloodstream to diseased parts of the body, but no one had shown that these devices could help clean up oil spills.

Tests showed that the cone-shaped microsubmarines, which are about 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair, can collect droplets of olive oil and motor oil in water and transport them through the water. The microsubs have a special surface coating, which makes them superhydrophobic, or extremely water-repellent yet oil-absorbent.

“Simultaneous parallel movement of multiple SAM [self-assembled monolayers]-modified microsubmarines holds promise for improving the efficiency of oil-removal processes,” the researchers wrote in the report. “Practical large-scale oil cleaning operations would require the use of motors propelled by their own natural environment or driven by an external (magnetic or electrical) control.”


NOAA, BOEM Find 19th-Century Shipwreck On Gulf of Mexico Expedition
Scientists on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer discovered a wooden-hulled vessel that is believed to have sunk as long as 200 years ago, NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced in May.

The shipwreck site, nearly 200 miles off the Gulf Coast in more than 4,000 feet of water, was originally identified as an unknown sonar contact during a 2011 oil and gas survey for Shell Oil Co. (Houston, Texas). BOEM requested this and other potential shipwreck sites be investigated during NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico expedition.

The wreck was one of four examined during the expedition, which also aimed to explore poorly known regions of the gulf; map and image unknown or little-known features and habitats; and develop and test a method to measure the rate that gas rises from naturally occurring seeps on the seafloor.

ROVs with lights and high-definition cameras were used to view remnants of the ship, laden with anchors, navigational instruments, ceramic plates, cannons and boxes of muskets.

“Artifacts in and around the wreck and the hull’s copper sheathing may date the vessel to the early to mid-19th century,” said Jack Irion, a maritime archaeologist with BOEM. “Some of the more datable objects include what appears to be a type of ceramic plate that was popular between 1800 and 1830 and a wide variety of glass bottles.”

At the base of the West Florida Escarpment, a steep undersea cliff, researchers also found a “forest” of deep corals, several of which were new to scientists on the ship and ashore. For several days the team imaged deep-coral communities in the vicinity of the Macondo oil spill site.

Team members designed and installed a device on the ship’s 4,000-meter-rated Little Hercules ROV, which made 29 dives during the expedition, to measure the rate that gas rises in the water column.


Sonardyne, Liquid Robotics Tech To Monitor Gulf of Maine
A Liquid Robotics Inc. (Sunnyvale, California) Wave Glider was launched in May near Monhegan Island in the Gulf of Maine to collect information on water conditions, including temperature, salinity and wave height.

The six- to eight-week project is a collaboration among the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), the University of Maine and Sonardyne Inc. (Houston, Texas).

Two of Sonardyne’s long-life subsea sensor logging nodes, called Fetch, have been deployed on the seafloor, where they will make regular subsea measurements using their onboard suite of environmental sensors.

When requested to do so, the stored data will be transmitted wirelessly up to the Wave Glider for onward transmission via a satellite link to the shore for near-real-time assessment. This project demonstrates how the combination of Fetch and Wave Glider technologies can expand the spatial and temporal resolution of the installed IOOS, the organizations said.

After the initial deployment in the Gulf of Maine is completed, the Wave Glider will transit to waters off the mid-Atlantic for additional missions, including tsunami detection.


GEOMAR Orders HyBIS for Gas Hydrate Sampling in Arctic
The Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel (IFM-GEOMAR) has placed an order for Hydro-Lek Ltd.’s (Berkshire, England) HyBIS (Hydraulic Benthic Interactive Sampler), the company said in May.

GEOMAR will use the underwater inspection and sampling vehicle later this year off the Svalbard archipelago in the European Arctic to sample gas hydrates and perform mapping of local ecosystems.

HyBIS has electronically driven thrusters and enables seabed sampling up to 6,000 meters depth, with video instrumentation observation. It allows sonar surveys to be followed up with localized observation and sampling during the same voyage.


WESMAR Sonar Installed on Arctic-Going Vessel
WESMAR (Woodinville, Washington) has completed the installation of its EV850 navigation and security sonar on the 164-foot arctic expedition ship MV QUEST, the company announced in May.

Managed by International Shipping Partners (Miami, Florida), the QUEST vessel voyages to Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and islands in the north of Norway, a trip that often begins with sailing through the Ice Fjord.


2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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