Photonics News

Lasers in Research Applications for Oceanographic Monitoring

Applications for laser-driven monitoring systems in oceanographic research and those related to airborne and land-based capabilities are divided by the unique need when working on the shore, in the ocean, and the subsea. These include blue light lasers which have created advanced options in remote data collection for land and sea studies. According to recent research, ship-based monitoring instruments are being replaced or complemented by “LiDAR satellites, small aircraft, and buoys to study the ebb and flow of the ocean and the impact of natural and man-made forces on ocean environments.”

In a recent XPRIZE competition CFIS partnered with the Quantum Composers Laser team in the Ocean Discovery category. The team made the cut from 30 to 8 teams and placed 4th in the competition, leveraging the ingenuity of Quantum Composers’ laser to create an advanced oceanographic research system. Quantum Composers designs and manufactures compact DPSS Q-switched lasers suitable for OEM, scientific and industrial use. The compact, sealed resonators are ideal for portable remote sensing, LiDAR, and spectroscopy applications which includes the aforementioned Spectrolite, a pulsed Diode Pumped Solid State blue laser. These lasers and others can also be modified and customized for a variety of applications including the following ones.

Ocean-color data is a key area of advancement for laser-based oceanographic research

One of the major application areas for laser applications in marine studies is the monitoring of environmental changes indicated by ocean-color data. Lasers are used to measure the wavelength dependence of the water-leaving radiances at the ocean surface which occurs due to light scattering and the absorption of them by chlorophyll pigments as well as dissolved and particulate matter in surface ocean water. This type of data collection also indicates the relative presence of phytoplankton (an important part of oceanographic ecosystems), the concentration of chlorophyll, and dissolved and particulate material in surface ocean waters, as well as sea surface temperature.

LiDAR Research and Monitoring Applications

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) applications for oceanographic monitoring use pulsed lasers as the light sources to penetrate deeply into the water at a more advanced level than other traditional sensing methods. In addition, LiDAR can collect data during the day and at night because it is independent of an external light source and is not impeded by the lack of solar light.

LiDAR monitoring of bubbles is a key application because bubbles are a primary mechanism through which the atmosphere and ocean exchange heat, momentum, and gas. Polarization is necessary to determine the presence of bubbles using a traditional monitoring method. LiDAR detection eliminates this need, making the analysis and measurement of specific components of the aquatic ecosystem much easier and more accessible for researchers and conservation authorities.

Blue Light Laser Oceanographic Monitoring

Recently, a breakthrough discovery by the KETmaritime project supported by the European Regional Development Fund, discovered that blue light laser technology can be used to enhance underwater object detection. This important new application can be used to:

Detecting oil spills in the water. Hyperspectral Laser-Induced Fluorescence (HLIF) based LiDAR sensors can help environmental crews detect oil in the water because oil is intrinsically fluorescent, emitting light in the blue-green spectral range. This allows samples of affected water to be “fingerprinted” for real-time identification of the category and type of oil, eliminating the need for lab analysis.

Increase safety for subsea oil drilling. Blue light laser technology is also being applied to enhance subsea inspection of oil pipelines. This method offers several benefits such as closer range inspection capabilities than those available with traditional acoustic techniques, allowing for better assessment of the condition of an oil company’s assets and decreased risk of safety breaches.

Laser applications may also enable the better collection of data to measure the impact of sediment transport created by seabed currents, which often cause unsupported segments of pipelines (free-spans). This allows for alerts and actions to be initiated to prevent critical safety problems stemming from stressed pipeline infrastructure.

The development of laser-driven applications for oceanographic monitoring and subsea safety represents significant advancements and exciting new horizons for marine researchers and global aquatic ecosystem protection efforts.

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