Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New robot scouts best locations for components of undersea lab

15.08.2008
Like a deep-sea bloodhound, Sentry – the newest in an elite group of unmanned submersibles able to operate on their own in demanding and rugged environments – has helped scientists pinpoint optimal locations for two observation sites of a pioneering seafloor laboratory being planned off Washington and Oregon.

Successful selection of the two sites is a crucial step in developing an extensive sensor network above and below the seafloor on the Juan de Fuca Plate, according to John Delaney, University of Washington oceanographer and chief scientist for a two-week mapping expedition.

The network, which will be connected to land by underwater cables from locations near Warrenton and Pacific City, Ore., will help unlock secrets about such things as the ocean's ability to absorb greenhouse gases and help scientists learn how seafloor stresses cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The network is one component of a wider project being overseen by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership as part of the National Science Foundation's Oceans Observatories Initiative.

"The ocean community is on the threshold of a new era in which an ensemble of novel technologies will provide us with an increasingly powerful capacity for exploring and interacting with the global ocean system," Delaney said. "The cruise itself is an example of the coming generation of systems, where highly capable autonomous underwater vehicles like Sentry will be integral components. Today's AUVs are helping us develop the power and high-speed communications network we'll need to explore powerful and potentially dangerous processes at underwater volcanoes, within powerful tsunamis or in the wake of large storms and hurricanes."

In plans thus far, cables from two places on land will extend to five primary nodes – each about the size of a large dinner table. Like underwater extension cords, the nodes will supply power to – and communicate with – instruments, robots and smaller secondary nodes.

Choosing the right sites involved mapping and imaging in remarkable detail using sonar instruments, a towed camera and Sentry. Sentry, for instance, produces maps precise to within 1 meter, or about 3 ½ feet, as it glides about 250 feet above the seafloor. Operators program the vehicle with directions of the area to map but the vehicle is on its own when it comes to maneuvering up and down cliffs, basins and other terrain that it encounters, all while keeping a consistent distance from the bottom.

The one-of-a-kind autonomous underwater vehicle – built by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with funding largely from the National Science Foundation – made six dives during the July 22 to Aug. 5 expedition. It was the first time the vehicle has been used during an actual oceanographic research cruise. Sentry surveyed 212 linear kilometers of seafloor, or about 53 square kilometers, as it traced parallel lines like a lawn mower making a pattern across a yard.

"Seeing the first maps pop up on our screen was a real thrill for us, they represent the results of hard work by all members of our team," said Dana Yoerger, the lead Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineer of Sentry. See WHOI release about Sentry at http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=47407&ct=162.

The work made it possible to finalize locations for two critical sites. One is near an area 50 miles off Newport, Ore., where scientists would like to learn more about the icy methane that collects on or below the seafloor where the Juan de Fuca plate dives beneath North America.

"Most developed nations have major research efforts focused on understanding – and learning to use – these energy-rich deposits of methane," Delaney said. "Our plan is to build the infrastructure that will allow entire generations of scientists to study these deposits firsthand using robotic telepresence – no other country is there yet." The other site is about 300 miles west of Cannon Beach, Ore., and in a decidedly different environment. That one's on top of Axial Seamount, the largest active submarine volcano east of Hawaii and north of Baja California, Mexico. Earthquakes, eruptions and hydrothermal venting at Axial Seamount are representative of what happens worldwide along the 43,000 mile Mid-Ocean Ridge System.

"The key to choosing these locations is to find sites that are protected but within reach of really interesting processes that we're trying to investigate," said Deborah Kelley, UW oceanographer and co-chief scientist on the expedition. For details of the all the tools used, as well as preliminary surveying for other parts of the planned observatory, see the expedition's Web site at http://ooi.ocean.washington.edu/cruise/.

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu
http://ooi.ocean.washington.edu/cruise/
http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=47407&ct=162

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Clear as mud: Desiccation cracks help reveal the shape of water on Mars
20.04.2018 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Hurricane Harvey: Dutch-Texan research shows most fatalities occurred outside flood zones
19.04.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>