NSF Grant for Sequoia Scientific to Develop Bio-Optical Sensor

Sequoia Scientific Inc. has been awarded a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant for $254,110 to conduct research and development for a bio-optical sensor for direct detection of sinking marine particles.

Sequoia’s Vice President of Science and Technology Dr. Wayne Slade will lead the development as principal investigator, collaborating with Dr. Meg Estapa at the University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences.

Almost 4,000 ocean-profiling floats are in operation globally. Hundreds of new floats are deployed each year, measuring a wide range of ocean science and climate change parameters. Scientists and policy makers are increasingly interested in measuring biogeochemical parameters that provide key data on biological ocean carbon uptake, which helps the ocean store carbon dioxide but could be impacted by climate change.

Within the scientific community, there is significant interest in development of new technology to measure the flux of carbon by particles settling out of the ocean’s surface. With the new NSF grant, Sequoia and UMaine will work on developing an “optical sediment trap” sensor that can directly measure the settling particles that carry the greatest amount of biological carbon into the deep ocean. The sensor will be small and power efficient to address the challenges of multiple-year deployments from autonomous profiling floats and scaling to a global float array.

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $275,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II funding are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

During Phase I, Sequoia and UMaine will focus on sensor optical, power and fluid dynamics modeling. The modeling results will guide a series of laboratory test and prototype concept development. An actual prototype and in-situ test on deployed floats would be part of an eventual Phase II award (24 months duration) and a commercial instrument would be ready immediately after Phase II.

Learn more at:


Leave a Reply