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Postgraduate research project

Ocean methane sensing using novel surface plasmon resonance technology

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

Although our oceans contain 99% of the living space on the planet, less than 10% of this space has been explored. Ocean monitoring is essential to human survival - from understanding the long-term impacts of climate change to ensuring ocean resources are developed sustainably.

Marine sensing requires us to recognise data timely and accurately from all the environments of space, sea surface and deep sea. We also need smart integration of data from different sensor systems to accurately predict future environmental conditions and their impact on life.

Today, ocean research is supported by marine sensing technologies such as in-situ testing, integrated sensor networks and remote sensing. However, as the deadline for carbon net-zero approaches, the demand for more compact and efficient ocean sensors is increasing. Further research is needed to develop the next generation of ocean sensors which will be capable of detecting trace concentration of pollutants, while remaining compact enough to be integrated into miniaturised subsea vehicles. 

The aim of this project is to develop and expand the range of analytes and pollutants to detect, using a novel surface plasmon resonance technique. Recently, this innovative technique has been successfully deployed for the detection of ocean hydrocarbons.

Within this project, you will optimise the sensor for the detection of specific molecules depending on the:

  • sensor material and optimum design
  • compatibility with permeable membranes
  • sea vehicle specifications eg payload size, depth, battery lifetime
  • geographic location eg temperature, living aquatics
  • water type and depth
  • cross sensitivity with other molecules

You’ll be part of a wider, multidisciplinary team within the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and have the opportunity to develop skills in areas of engineering, oceanography, and chemistry.

The project will be supported by world leading ocean sensors industries. You’ll use theoretical numerical modelling to assess the interaction of light with a permeable membrane and conduct experimental work at our facilities in ORC (sensor fabrication) and NOC (sensor testing and calibration). In collaboration with world class researchers from Imperial College, a permeable membrane for a specific pollutant will add a dimension of selectivity to the sensor. You’ll also join Southampton’s Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI).