Oceanographic Instrumentation

The field of oceanographic instrumentation has historically been a progression of the means of sampling and in-situ measurement.  The challenge has remained for scientists and engineers:  how do we take samples and quantitative measurements of the deep ocean and seafloor.  Developing such instruments has been the result of a teaming of electrical and electronics engineers, mechanical engineers, and software developers.  Many modern oceanographic devices are composed of a densely packaged suite of electronics packaged much like a 3D jigsaw puzzle inside of a rugged pressure vessel.  The electronics, which serve to make measurements or record data, must interface with the mechanical packaging. The packaging must be robust to withstand the immense hydrostatic force of the deep ocean and be sufficiently strong to resist abuse during launching and recovering of the instrument from a research ship.

Below are a few images of a recent instrument development project at the University of Rhode Island that demonstrate our capabilities.  The goal of the project was to package two small digital cameras inside of one small aluminum pressure-housing.  The image pairs from the cameras can be used to calculate a stereographic rendering, thus providing micro-bathymetric data of the seafloor.  This particular pressure housing is rated for  shallow water, 100 msw depth.  Extensive analyses, both traditional and Finite Element, were conducted  to achieve the lightest possible design while ensuring adequate strength for operating at this depth.

Another example of work done in Chris Roman’s lab at URI-Graduate School of Oceanography can be explored here.  Todd was the principle mechanical designer for this 100 msw rated Lagrangian Float.

Another example is a project undertaken for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) department of Geology and Geophysics.  Fifteen new Ocean Bottom Seismometer instruments were designed and fabricated in 2011, rated for 6,000 msw and designed to collect data for one year.  In collaboration with Woods Hole Marine Systems, all aspects of the mechanical engineering for this new instrument were tackled by Gregory Designs:  pressure housings, electronics packaging, structural frame, syntactic foam, sensor deployment device, anchor release, trim-buoyancy evaluation, and assistance with the fabrication and testing.  These instruments were deployed and subsequently recovered off of the Pacific Northwest as part of the Cascadia project.