NOISES - Nitrous Oxide In-Situ Environmental Sensors

Project: Research council

Project Details


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a critical greenhouse gas and a potent ozone-depleting agent. Knowing its environmental occurrence and fate is critical for climate change science but there is currently no chemical strategy to measure nitrous oxide in the oceans. This project aims to solve this problem by creating a custom-designed molecule that undergoes a chemical reaction with nitrous oxide, resulting in a detectable colour change. This process will then be adapted to work in complex environmental samples such as seawater. The process will be incorporated into a prototype mini-analyser device that is able to detect the colour change, and hence determine the level of nitrous oxide dissolved in the sample. When deployed such devices could make many measurements of even low levels of nitrous oxide, filling the gaps in our measurements (and therefore understanding) of nitrous oxide in the marine environment. This will be the first development step towards a sensor which can potentially be deployed in the sea or on unmanned robots, to measure nitrous oxide in areas such as the deep sea, or polar oceans, which are hazardous and/or hard to access to scientists. In the longer term, by combining custom chemical synthesis with ocean technology design and engineering, this project will establish a pipeline of new chemistry solutions to solve other critical problems relating to measurement of chemicals in the sea using sensors. The use of sensors on robots, moorings, floats and drifters, also enables measurements with a much lower energy use and hence carbon footprint than the traditional collection of water samples (e.g. with a research ship, or person in the field) and later laboratory analysis. Therefore, the development of sensors is essential for marine science to reach the UK's goal of Net Zero whilst maintaining or extending its capability.
Effective start/end date1/04/2330/09/24

Collaborative partners


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Chemical measurement
  • Analytical Science
  • Instrumentation Engineering and Development
  • Marine environments
  • Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Ecosystem Scale Processes
  • Ocean - Atmosphere Interactions


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