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Images: Can't Bring Deep-sea Samples Up? Send a Lab Down.

Sheri White is developing laser Raman spectrometers for use in the deep sea to analyze the chemical composition and structure of materials. Many materials exist only under the unusual conditions in the deep sea and cannot be brought to the surface to study. White is an assistant scientist in the WHOI Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Raman spectrometers work by focusing a laser on a target object. A small part of the beam (one in 100,000,000 photons) interacts with the chemical bonds of the targeted material and scatters at different wavelengths. By reading the wavelengths of the Raman-scattered light, scientists can determine the chemical composition and molecular structure of the material. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Chip Breier, a postdocotral fellow at WHOI, prepares to test a device he is developing called the Suspended Particulate Rosette (SuPR), which efficiently collects tiny particles from minerals or microbes?in a plume of hot fluids gushing from a seafloor hydrothermal vent, for example. Coupled with a Raman spectrometer, it could analyze the chemical composition of those particles right at the seafloor.

WHOI engineer Chip Breier is working to put his new deep-sea particle sampling device on WHOI?s remotely operated vehicle Jason to collect samples in hard-to-access places. For example, the vehicle can use its manipulator arm to thrust a particle-collecting vacuum tube right into rising hydrothermal vent plumes, where emerging vent fluids mix with seawater and a flurry of intriguing chemical reactions take place.
(Illustration by E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Sheri White was part of a team at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute that developed DORISS, the Deep Ocean Raman In Situ Spectrometer, shown here being deployed near the seafloor by the manipulator arm of a MBARI remotely operated vehicle. (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)

Sheri White also designed a Precision Underwater Positioner (PUP)?a device with rigid legs and a camera, light, and crossing lasers?to help position the laser probe precisely and stably on small targets in the fluid deep sea. (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)