In Situ Spectrophotometric Measurement of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon in Seawater


Liu, X., Byrne, R. H., Adornato, L., Yates, K. K., Kaltenbacher, E., Ding, X., & Yang, B. (2013). In situ spectrophotometric measurement of dissolved inorganic carbon in seawater. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(19), 11106-11114.


Autonomous in situ sensors are needed to document the effects of today’s rapid ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (e.g., ocean acidification). General environmental conditions (e.g., biofouling, turbidity) and carbon-specific conditions (e.g., wide diel variations) present significant challenges to acquiring long-term measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) with satisfactory accuracy and resolution. SEAS-DIC is a new in situ instrument designed to provide calibrated, high-frequency, long-term measurements of DIC in marine and fresh waters. Sample water is first acidified to convert all DIC to carbon dioxide (CO2). The sample and a known reagent solution are then equilibrated across a gas-permeable membrane. Spectrophotometric measurement of reagent pH can thereby determine the sample DIC over a wide dynamic range, with inherent calibration provided by the pH indicator’s molecular characteristics. Field trials indicate that SEAS-DIC performs well in biofouling and turbid waters, with a DIC accuracy and precision of ∼2 μmol kg–1 and a measurement rate of approximately once per minute. The acidic reagent protects the sensor cell from biofouling, and the gas-permeable membrane excludes particulates from the optical path. This instrument, the first spectrophotometric system capable of automated in situ DIC measurements, positions DIC to become a key parameter for in situ CO2-system characterizations.

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