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03/28/2013

Carbon Explorer Overcomes Obstacles

Source:  LBNL News Center and Dan Hawkes

Explorer_jim_todd1Carbon Explorer floats, developed by ESD’s Jim Bishop (with help from ESD’s Todd Wood) to track the processes of the ocean carbon cycle, recently overcame some mishaps (including an incorrect clock setting on one float) to keep on reporting new data from the deep.

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Carbon Explorers, which won a 2006 R&D 100 award (honoring the top 100 technologies in the U.S. for that year), measure the concentration of carbon at ocean depths down to a kilometer, including particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) such as the shells of coccolithophores, one-celled plants armored in calcium carbonate. Visible from satellites as milky blooms covering hundreds of miles of ocean, the onset and dissipation of coccolithophore blooms has yet to be observed in detail. Carbon Explorers are designed to fill such gaps in our knowledge of marine biology.

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Todd Wood (left) and Jim Bishop with a Carbon Explorer. Particles in the water flow through the PIC sensor’s open channel as the Explorer drifts with the current. Polarizing filters, one near the source of the laser beam and the other over the detector, together block all light except what calcium carbonate refracts. Calcium carbonate twists transmitted light, allowing it to pass through the second filter to be recorded on the detector. (Photo Alex Derr)