In-situ Chemical Measurements in Deep-Sea and Hydrothermal Vent Locations

Expanding our ability to perform multi-species chemical analyses in-situ would have significant impact in the ocean sciences, chemical oceanography, charting ocean circulation, in understanding the effect of pollutants in the ocean, and the effects of global climate change, just to name a few.

Since their discovery in 1977 at the Galapagos Rift, deep sea hydrothermal vents (HTVs) have been considered a new frontier of planetary exploration…right here on Earth!  Ninety-five percent of the species discovered at HTVs are new, thus raising many questions about how they survive in such extreme environments. HTVs are over 4000 m,  in depth with temperatures ranging from 2 to 450°C, and pressures near 400 atm.  

The study of dynamic biogeochemical processes in the ocean, especially near hydrothermal vents, is daunting challenge.  To undertake such studies requires the ability to monitor a variety of chemical species under extreme conditions in-situ in real time.  Our group is investigating the application of new techniques and instruments similar to those we used to analyze the soil on Mars. A compact array of real-time sensors using ion selective electrodes (ISE) is being developed to measure under high pressure [1] in-situ the unique chemistry found around these vents.

  Image shows the prototype ISE sensor array undergoing in-situ testing in April 2012 on a cruise starting at Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, down the Delaware River, and then 10 miles off-shore.

[1] "Solid Contact Ion Selective Electrodes for In Situ Measurements at High Pressure"
A. W. Weber, G. D. O'Neil, and S. P. Kounaves, Anal. Chem., 2017, 89, 4803-4807,
doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b00366 Full Text


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Last Updated: 08/30/2017