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A Review of Advances in Deep-Ocean Raman Spectroscopy

Volume 66, Number 3 (March 2011) Page 237-249


We review the rapid progress made in the applications of Raman spectroscopy to deep-ocean science. This is made possible by deployment of instrumentation on remotely operated vehicles used for providing power and data flow and for precise positioning on targets of interest. Early prototype systems have now been replaced by compact and robust units that have been deployed well over 100 times on an expeditionary basis over a very wide range of ocean depths without failure. Real-time access to the spectra obtained in the vehicle control room allows for expedition decision making. Quantification of some of the solutes in seawater or pore waters observed in the spectra is made possible by self-referencing to the ubiquitous ν2 water bending peak. The applications include detection of the structure and composition of complex thermogenic gas hydrates both occurring naturally on the sea floor and in controlled sea floor experiments designed to simulate the growth of such natural systems. New developments in the ability to probe the chemistry of sediment pore waters in situ, long thought impossible candidates for Raman study due to fluorescence observed in recovered samples, have occurred. This permits accurate measurement of the abundance of dissolved methane and sulfide in sediment pore waters. In areas where a high gas flux is observed coming out of the sediments a difference of about ×30 between in situ Raman measurement and the quantity observed in recovered cores has been found. New applications under development include the ability to address deep-sea biological processes and the ability to survey the sea floor chemical conditions associated with potential sub-sea geologic CO2 disposal in abandoned oil and gas fields.

Index Headings: Deep-ocean spectroscopy; Methane hydrates; Sediments; Remotely operated vehicles; ROVs.