PhD Studentship, An Ocean Alkalinity Sensor for Autonomous Vehicles

Southampton, United Kingdom
£15,609 p.a for up to 3.5 years
17 Dec 2021
End of advertisement period
18 Mar 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Mechanical Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Friday 18 March 2022
Reference:  1640421DA

Supervisory Team:    Dr Adrian Nightingale (FEPS), Dr Allison Schaap (NOC), Prof. Rachael James (FELS), Dr Stathys Papadimitriou (NOC)

Project description

This project aims to develop new chemical sensor technology for use on autonomous ocean-going vehicles that will help us understand how the oceans are responding to climate change.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has risen to >407 parts per million, a 47 % increase over the concentration at the beginning of the industrial era and roughly a third of this anthropogenic CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans. The role and fate of carbon in the world’s oceans is characterised via several key parameters. One of these parameters is alkalinity, which represents the water’s ability to buffer against pH changes, such as the acidification caused by atmospheric CO2 input. Measuring alkalinity, along with other carbonate parameters such as pH, is an essential aspect of global ocean biogeochemistry and is necessary to assess the progress of climate change. 

Measuring marine chemistry remotely with sensors allows much more data to be obtained compared to manual sampling and measurement. This is especially true when considering the vastness of the oceans. Here autonomous vehicles (e.g., profiling floats, gliders, autonomous underwater vehicles) equipped with sensors can measure remote marine locations far more efficiently and cost-effectively. Alkalinity, however, is currently measured almost exclusively manually, with existing alkalinity sensing technology being highly immature. Alkalinity sensors recently developed at the National Oceanography Centre (by Dr. Schaap and Dr. Papadimitriou) have been successfully trialled over the last couple of years. However, they suffer from long measurement times (multiple minutes) and need to be deployed with bulky ancillary reagents meaning they are not well-suited for use on vehicles. Separately, Dr Nightingale at the University of Southampton has pioneered a different type of chemical sensor, based on droplet microfluidics, which has notable advantages in measurement frequency (measurement every few seconds) and size, with a nitrate sensor for river water since commercialised by SouthWestSensor Ltd

We are looking for a talented and motivated engineer or scientist to work on a 3.5-year PhD bringing together these two areas of expertise to create a new droplet microfluidic alkalinity sensor with the small size and fast sample rate required for use on moving vehicles. You will be involved in all aspects of the work - from designing, fabricating and initial testing of the sensor itself, to its integration into a microsubmarine, and testing in real world settings. The project is therefore well suited to those with an interest in sensor technology, systems engineering, analytical chemistry, or interdisciplinary research; and would suit graduates with a first degree in mechanical engineering, chemistry, oceanography, or another closely aligned subject.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 18 March 2022. 

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £15,609 p.a for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Apply online Select programme type (Research), 2022/23, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD  Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor  Adrian Nightingale 

Applications should include

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Two reference letters
  • Degree Transcripts to date

For further information, please contact:

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