A New Way To `See' Under The Sea

Taking measurements in the deep sea is increasingly important for climate research, pollution monitoring, and a better understanding of the oceans. But voyages to obtain such data are time-consuming and costly. Now, researchers at Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Wash., and Ocean Sensors Inc. in San Diego have developed a relatively inexpensive "smart" seafaring sensor.

Dropped in the water, the sensor will descend to the ocean floor, down to 19,000 feet. Its microprocessor can be programmed to collect data such as depth, current, and temperature for up to two years. At a designated time, the sensor will return to the surface to send its data back to land via satellite. Armed with the ability to seek out specific chemicals, the sensor could become a watchdog, sending an alert when it detects pollutants that exceed certain levels. The researchers plan to test their first prototype next spring.

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