PI: Sabrina Jedlicka
Co-PI(s): Susan Perry
University: Lehigh University
Water quality in environmental waters is on a rapid decline. Temperature, pH, and ionic balance are in flux as a byproduct of agriculture, urban development, global warming, and other factors. Ecotech Marine is interested in the health and vitality of oceans; their business focuses on coral reef hobbyists.

Globally, coral reef systems provide economic and food security to the surrounding communities. However, due to rising temperatures and fluctuating water chemistries, coral reefs are dying at an unsustainable rate. Numerous organizations are dedicated to revitalization efforts–which often require growing corals in coral “farms” prior to moving the coral back to the ocean. To grow these coral ex situ, maintenance of water chemistry is key, although challenging. In addition, the water chemistry of marine water is increasingly at risk.

While widespread control of ocean chemistry is not feasible, developing an understanding of these dynamics could lead to future environmental protection solutions. Developing technologies that allow for robust monitoring of marine water chemistry could enhance our understanding of these delicate ecosystems, as well as provide tools for sustainable aquaculture and other industrial purposes.

The long-term goal of the proposed PITA project is to develop a sensing device that can autonomously monitor and report ionic balances in a marine environment (aquaculture facility, aquarium, environmental test bed, etc.). Previous results from associated research (PITA 2016) have identified a suite of materials that allow for robust calcium, magnesium, nitrate, and pH sensing. However, the materials developed proved to be incompatible with living species in the marine environment. Thus, the proposed research seeks to modify the material chemistry to improve compatibility, as well as to expand the ionic species that can be sensed. In addition, the research team will evaluate traditional sensors to more quickly translate a sensor product from Ecotech Marine to the marketplace.