Ocean Technology

Humankind left its footprint on the moon but has not stepped on the ocean floor (Please check this and this). He broke the  sound barrier, both in the air and on land, but is far from that on the water. The marine environment is a challenge for existing technologies, due to the action of waves, winds, currents, salinity, high pressure on deep waters, among others.

Lord Kelvin (1824–1907) made an important contribution to the knowledge proclaiming the importance of measurement and the numerical expression of results. The Scientific Method highlights the relevance of the association of theoretical knowledge with experimental techniques for the construction and testing of hypotheses, and the search for answers to scientific questions. This may lead to a vision of advanced and innovative technologies, but, for example, you can measure the sea temperature with a few dollars instrument or use another thousand time more expensive, which one to use? The answer will depend on what you want to achieve with the measure.

The Society is connected to the ocean, whether due to studies involving several areas of knowledge: oceanography, meteorology, engineering, social sciences, biology, among others, or due to its use by the fishing, aquaculture, oil & gas, mining or tourism industry, or due to leisure and others. In addition, the cultural, social, economic and environmental plurality and diversity around the Atlantic Ocean will be reflected in the technologies that must meet from the needs of the artisanal fishermen of coastal areas (Please check this, this and this), the scientific community, up to the big exploitation companies.

In the last 30 years, supported by the improvement of electronics, computing, underwater acoustics, nanotechnology, oceanographic satellites, among other technologies, Man has been refining the knowledge about the Ocean, mapping its bottom (Please check this and this) and monitoring more and better the EOVs-Essential Ocean Variables. These allowed it to start to share the ocean resources in a more sustainable way, dealing with issues such as marine litter, a worldwide pressure, especially plastics (Please check this and this).

Ocean Technology should support pure and applied science, and engineering activities in the exploration and exploitation of ocean resources to produce wealth for society. It must meet a wide range of devices, covering from the development and availability of low-cost (Please check this, this and this) and open-source instruments and systems, up to the most innovative and expensive, all supported by calibration facilities. These added to other technologies can be used in Monitoring Platforms, from small drift buoys, to ocean gliders (Please check this, this and this), manned or autonomous submarines, up to Animal-Borne Ocean Sensors (AniBOS (Please check this, this and this)), as well as large oceanographic vessels.

The Atlantic Ocean basin is a colossal renewable energy supplier, either by direct sources as waves (Please check this and this), tidal currents and tidal amplitudes, and thermal gradients (Please check this, this and this), or by non-direct sources as winds and solar energy (Please check this and this). Thinking in a sustainable planet, the ocean energy generation must be integrated in the grid.

The electricity production by wind farms in shallow water and by tidal dams are mature technologies, but all the others still require additional R&D and innovation to become competitive concerning the other sources of the energy grid, mainly because of the challenges imposed by the harsh marine environment.


By Fábio Nascimento

Oceanographic Instrumentation Laboratory (LIOc)

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)