Biofouling—unwanted marine growth on submerged instruments—can compromise in situ installations in ocean water by obscuring camera lenses, blocking lights, interfering with sensors and encrusting underwater structures. In 2014, AML Oceanographic Ltd. launched the industry’s first commercially available UV-based antifouling system, UV•Xchange, that protects virtually any submerged surface.
“We were excited when a Canadian company brought Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) a potential solution to one of the biggest challenges in maintaining ocean instruments,” said Scott McLean, Director of Ocean Networks Canada’s Innovation Centre. “Biofouling, particularly in the coastal zone, can stop operations and, at the same time, cause maintenance costs to skyrocket for any ocean installation.”
AML Oceanographic Ltd. of Sidney, BC developed a novel antifouling system using ultra-violet (UV) light. Known as a global innovator for its sound speed sensor technology and “Xchange” field-swappable sensors, AML is a small-to-medium sized enterprise and a global provider of oceanographic instrumentation. Pete Redeeker, AML’s Director of Sales and Marketing, says that, “AML's partnership with Ocean Networks Canada has proven critical in the successful launch of our new UV•Xchange and Cabled UV products. As a developer and manufacturer of subsea instrumentation, validation of new technologies and long term testing is of paramount importance. Access to ONC's technology demonstration facilities, data and video monitoring infrastructure, and their experienced staff has proven invaluable to bringing this technology to market.”
The testing for AML’s prototype was conducted on the Folger Pinnacle instrument platform at Ocean Networks Canada’s coastal observatory site, Folger Passage. At a depth of 23 metres, this is the shallowest location and the site most heavily impacted by biofouling. In a controlled experiment with four ocean sensor instruments monitored by a video camera, the UV•Xchange bathed selected surfaces in ultraviolet light for twenty minutes out of every forty. The protected sensors have remained clean and operated accurately, delivering real time data for over 15 months.
A Game Changer for ocean instrumentation
AML’s new technology uses stackable light emitting diode (LED) modules, housed within a glass pressure case, that emit UV radiation in broad beams to irradiate target surfaces. The technology had been discussed for decades, but to implement it successfully, the company adopted modern LED technology to lessen the power demand and developed a system that was quiet, non-contact, non-toxic and mechanically simple.
“This new technology is a true game changer in the ocean instrumentation industry,” said Tom Dakin, who leads sensor technology development for the Innovation Centre at Ocean Networks Canada. “As a result of this technology demonstration, ONC has already bought two of these systems—and we are planning more—to protect the underwater cameras and instruments on the ONC observatories.”
Targeted applications for the UV antifouling system include camera and light lenses, as well as a wide range of sensors such as dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH, carbon dioxide, sound speed, and electrical conductivity. Because it operates silently, the system is also effective on sensors that are located near hydrophones.
New on the market and already a winner
At the 2014 annual VIATeC Technology Awards gala held in Victoria BC, AML Oceanographic took home the prestigious “Innovative Excellence” award for development of UV•Xchange—the industry’s first commercially available UV-based antifouling system. Successful deployments around the world, including Canada, the United States, Australia and Dubai, have proven UV•Xchange to be an effective antifoulant in a wide range of environments. Widespread interest in using ultra-violet light as an antifoulant led AML to expand the technology to accommodate a broad array of underwater devices and other unique applications. Cabled UV was released in September of 2014.
"With the incredible results of the AML Oceanographic conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) and UV anti-biofouling system in our technology demonstration program, we are very pleased to be deploying these systems across coastal BC as part of the Smart Ocean™ initiative,” says Scott McLean.
For industry groups who use or develop ocean sensor technologies or for small-to-medium sized enterprises seeking partnerships for technology transfer, please contact the Innovation Centre at Ocean Networks Canada.
Read more about AML Oceanographic:
Marine Technology Reporter - Sept 22, 2014
Ocean News & Technology - February 2014