Although most buoys are permanent fixtures serving a single purpose, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Marine Sciences Laboratory have developed a lightweight portable buoy complete with cell-phone technology and interchangeable sensors.
The bio-optical monitoring buoy is designed to validate satellite signals recorded and relayed from space while simultaneously monitoring water quality parameters in coastal, estuarine and inland waters. It provides remote measurements of biological, chemical and physical processes that can be used for natural resource assessment of these waters. For example, it may one day help detect and predict harmful algal blooms.
During its maiden voyage in the fall of 2000, a field test demonstrated that the buoy could communicate with researchers and provide customized data in near real-time. The buoy promises to be more cost-effective than conventional data collection methods that require labor-intensive and expensive shipboard platforms. It also can be easily modified for different applications and to meet clients' research needs.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.