Apr 17, 2012Science and Technology
Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers get $350,000 contract from US Department of the Interior

Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are using a one year, $350,000 contract from the US Department of the Interior to test whether sound waves can be used to determine the size of oil droplets in the subsea -- knowledge that could help guide the use of chemical dispersants during the cleanup of future spills. Chemical dispersants have conventionally been applied to surface oil slicks to produce smaller droplets that can more easily be mixed downward by ocean turbulence. Today, the effectiveness and safety of deep-sea dispersant application remains unknown, at least in part because of the difficulty of monitoring the size of the oil droplets within the subsea plume. That’s where the VIMS research comes in: the team’s preliminary results qualitatively confirm the potential superiority of an acoustic approach to monitoring oil dispersion, but their next step is to take the data and turn them into a measurement method that would define the exact droplet size.

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