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New Frontiers for Mid-Infrared Sensors: Towards Deep Sea Monitoring with a Submarine FT-IR Sensor System

Volume 57, Number 6 (June 2003) Page 591-599

Kraft, Martin; Jakusch, Michael; Karlowatz, Manfred; Katzir, Abraham; Mizaikoff, Boris


A sub-sea deployable fiber-optic sensor system for the continuous determination of a range of environmentally relevant volatile organic compounds in seawater has been developed. The prototype of a robust, miniaturized Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectrometer for in situ underwater pollution monitoring was designed, developed, and built in our research group. The assembled instrument is enclosed in a sealed aluminium pressure vessel and is capable of maintenance-free operation in an oceanic environment down to depths of at least 300 m. The whole system can be incorporated either in a tow frame or a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). A suitable fiber-optic sensor head was developed, optimized in terms of sensitivity and hydrodynamics, and connected to the underwater FT-IR spectrometer. Due to a modular system design, various other sensor head configurations could be realized and tested, ensuring facile adaptation of the instrument to future tasks. The sensor system was characterized in a series of laboratory and simulated field tests. The sensor proved to be capable of quantitatively detecting a range of chlorinated hydrocarbons and monocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in seawater down to the low ppb (μg/L) concentration range, including mixtures of up to 6 components. It has been demonstrated that varying amounts of salinity, turbidity, or humic acids, as well as interfering seawater pollutants, such as aliphatic hydrocarbons or phenols, do not significantly influence the sensor characteristics. In addition, the sensor exhibits sufficient long-time stability and a low susceptibility to sensor fouling.