Concerns about ocean acidification have come to the forefront of the climate change discussion in recent years, but there is still not an easy way to monitor just how acidic ocean water has become.
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, who awarded the money to Sunburst Sensors, offered two separate $750,000 awards for both accuracy and cost. The new device won both prizes, for a total of $1.5 million.
The competition lasted for two years, giving the research team time to develop a monitoring device that tests seawater by mixing the ocean samples with dyes. The dyes react by changing to a certain color based on the pH of the water. Laser light is emitted through the water to a sensor which takes a reading.
The units may cost just $1,000 apiece.
Ocean acidification is not just a problem for environmentalists; the effects of this problem on marine wildlife will have severe economic consequences as well. For communities that rely on fishing, ocean acidification has real and immediate consequences. The fishing industry is already in trouble because the demand for fish is depleting their population numbers, and so ocean acidity and overfishing compound on each other. It’s easy to see why an effective water monitoring device would be in high demand.
Anyone who enjoys eating fish should be concerned, too.
Awards were also given to ANB Sensors for their cheap device and Team DuraFET for making an accurate device, and each research team made $250,000 each. More than twelve other teams participated, from many different countries, making the XPRIZE a global event.