The University of Maine Maine In-situ Sound & Color Lab
School of Marine Sciences
Study of Instrument Design to Measure Backscattering and Absorption with a Flat-Faced Sensor

Sketch of the proposed sensor, with typical modeled measurement
Click image to enlarge
Seawater inherent optical properties (IOPs) are key parameters in a wide range of applications in environmental studies and oceanographic research. In particular, the absorption coefficient (a) is the typical IOP used to obtain the concentration of chlorophyll-a in the water - a critical parameter in biological oceanography studies, and the backscattering coefficient (bb) is used as a measure of turbidity.

In this study we test a novel instrument concept designed to obtain both the absorption and backscattering coefficients. The instrument would emit a collimated monochromatic light beam into the water retrieving the backscattered light intensity as a function of distance from the center of illumination. We use Monte Carlo modeling of light propagation to create an inversion algorithm that translates the signal from such an instrument into values of a and bb. Our results, based on simulations spanning the bulk of natural values of seawater IOP combinations, indicate that a 6.2 cm - diameter instrument with a radial resolution of 1 cm would be capable of predicting bb within less than 13.4% relative difference, and a within less than 57% (for 90% of the inverted a values, the relative errors fall below 29.7%). Additionally, these errors could be further reduced by constraining the inversion algorithm with information from concurrent measurements of other IOPs. Such a compact and relatively simple device could have multiple applications for in situ optical measurements, including a and bb retrievals from instrumentation mounted on autonomous underwater vehicles. Furthermore, the same methodology could possibly be used for an out-of-water sensor.

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Website last updated: 18-Mar-14