Scientists Market New Technology
Scientists and engineers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have partnered with two companies to market undersea technology developed at WHOI. The technology includes the Imaging FlowCytobot, an automated underwater microscope, and BlueComm, an underwater communications system that uses light to provide wireless transmission of data, including video imagery, in real or near-real time. Since 2003 a submersible flow cytometer developed at WHOI, FlowCytobot, has been measuring and counting the smallest phytoplankton (cells <10 micro-meters) at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO), recording optical signals from individual cells as they pass through a focused laser beam. As part of NSF’s Biocomplexity program, FlowCytobot has produced an unprecedented record of picoplankton dynamics, including the size and pigment characteristics of each cell. The continuous high-resolution, hourly measurements provide information on a variety of temporal scales, including inter-annual and seasonal patterns in abundance of different types of picoplankton, and daily estimates of cell growth rate. Another technology developed at WHOI, BlueComm provides optical communications that can be used to provide ultra high data rates in typical deepwater environments where there is little or no ambient light and turbidity is minimal. It is best suited to applications where significant user bandwidth is required or high levels of ambient noise preclude the use of traditional acoustic technologies. This emerging technology uses high power light emitting diodes as the transmitter with a receiver based on photomultiplier technology that is so sensitive it can detect light energy at the level of a few photons. BlueComm operates over short ranges of a few tens or even hundreds of meters with data transfer rates of up to 10-to-20 megabits per second to be achieved.