COLUMBUS, OH., 25 February, 2012—It’s amazing what you can see Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, but it’s doubtful Otis Redding had plankton on his mind when he wrote his iconic song.
Still, researchers off a dock in Florida are cheering the successful long-term deployment of an imaging technology device that has potential uses for characterizing and combating microscopic plankton that muck up water and marine equipment.
Scientists at Battelle in Columbus and Fluid Imaging Technologies (FIT), in Yarmouth, Maine, consider the recent successful field demonstration of a novel biofouling control technology as passing a major milestone.
Taking as many as 22 digital photos per second, the Submersible FlowCAM® can identify and measure the abundance of many types of microscopic plankton and other water organisms and particles in oceans, lakes, reservoirs and streams, and then rapidly transmit that data to scientists.
The team has a patent pending for the capillary flow cell and the biofouling control technology installed in the Submersible FlowCAM that was first unveiled at the 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting. The biofouling control technology enabled the device to collect high quality planktonic species images and abundance data without operator intervention for more than five weeks while deployed from a dock at Battelle’s Florida Materials Research Facility in Ponce Inlet, Fla.
Why is this important? The device has potential applications for combating problems such as toxic red tide, algae blooms or odorous public water supplies. But before these blooms can be imaged, biofouling of the cell for long-term deployments must be controlled.
“This test demonstrates the ability to collect plankton (and other particle) data for extended periods without the use of chemical agents to clean the capillary walls or other intervention of operators,” said Carlton Hunt, Research Leader at Battelle’s Duxbury, Massachusetts lab. “Moreover, the test demonstrated the ability to observe and download the data from remote locations. FIT and Battelle operators were able to periodically check in on the system from offices in Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio and Florida.”
The Battelle developed biofouling control technology is part of the device and is crucial to keeping the optical components clean, so that it can continue to capture images and data, without frequent cleaning. It’s an important way to save on manpower for a device that might be mounted on a buoy 500 miles offshore. Equally important is to not interrupt the continuous flow of data by having to clean components.
Battelle scientists teamed with Fluid Imaging Technologies (FIT) to design and build the Submersible FlowCAM. The device is based on laboratory and portable monitoring devices FIT has built for environmental monitoring and for quality control in the pharmaceutical, chemical, plastics and other industries. The Submersible FlowCAM is currently designed for use at depths up to 656 feet or 200 meters.
“We have been aware of the requirement of marine researchers and water quality monitors for an in situ device providing real-time information on microorganisms in water systems ever since we first developed the FlowCAM in 1999,” said Harry Nelson, Director of Aquatic Sales for FIT. “Teaming up with the engineering expertise of Battelle, we are very pleased to be able to now offer our imaging technology filling this important need.”
It can be attached to a stationary, underwater mount; attached to moorings; deployed as a profiling instrument with standard water-sampling equipment; carried in the payload bays of underwater robots; or it can be towed or used as a bench instrument. It can be used in salt water as well as fresh water lakes and reservoirs and rivers.
As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.2 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization.
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories for which Battelle has a significant management role on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
About Fluid Imaging Technologies
Fluid Imaging Technologies, Inc. was founded in 1999 as a spinoff from Bigelow Laboratory for Oceanographic Sciences in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Since its founding, it has been the world-leader in particle analysis instrumentation based upon digital imaging technology. Its flagship product, FlowCAM®, was the first imaging particle analyzer on the market, and continues to lead the way in hardware innovations.
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