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Engineering takes to the ocean


Cutting edge research will be on display at The Royal Academy of Engineering’s annual Summer Soirée at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), on Monday 27 June, hosted by the University of Southampton.

Highlights include:

Ocean floor energy: the University of Southampton and NOCS are at the forefront of research on methane hydrates, ice-like deposits occurring in deep ocean sediments. These show promise as a major source of energy but could also trigger a dramatic acceleration in global warming if their trapped methane was released – they are already implicated in submarine landslides.

The thinking oilman’s seafloor survey: Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping plc, a spin-out company from the University of Southampton, is pioneering the use of controlled source electromagnetic sounding to test the resistivity of rock structures under the sea bed, which gives a very accurate picture of oil and gas deposits. Used to complement seismic surveys, it is already saving oil companies millions of pounds in offshore test drilling and might be used in future to assess and monitor rock structures during carbon dioxide sequestration. OHM was shortlisted this year for the Academy’s £50,000 MacRobert Award for innovation.

The fibre is listening: the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre has developed an optical fibre with an integrated vibration sensor that can detect sounds up to 20 metres away from the fibre over a total length of up to 40 kilometres. The system can distinguish simultaneous noises and identify their sources. It is already being used in smart structures to record stresses and also for earthquake monitoring. Another new biosensor chip simultaneously measures 32 different pollutants in real time and is already in use monitoring rivers and coastal waters.

Bubble bubble: the formation of bubbles and violent splashing as waves break transfers energy and mass between the atmosphere and the ocean and understanding this process is important in studying both climate change and coastal erosion. Research at the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research and the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment aims to demystify the turbulent interface between water, air and seashore using novel probes based on optical fibres. Understanding how dolphins manage to use sonar in bubbly water could lead to improved design of human sonar equipment, which is currently limited in turbulent coastal areas.

Virtual Trafalgar: see the Battle of Trafalgar from every angle as you’ve never seen it before. Final year engineering students have developed a virtual maritime environment to create realistic simulations of ships from HMS Victory to modern yachts.

Guest of Honour HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Senior Fellow of the Academy, will also formally rename the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (formerly the Southampton Oceanography Centre).

Jane Sutton | alfa
Further information:

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