Chinese engineers are developing a new device that is expected to be a great help in oceanographic research, according to China Shipbuilding Industry Corp.
The deep-sea, self-powered profiling float will be powered by changes in seawater temperature through the use of phase-change materials in its propulsion system.
Phase-change materials can store or release heat as they morph between liquid and solid states.
The float will be deployed as part of an international effort called Argo, which observes the ocean's temperature, salinity, currents and bio-optical properties, according to a news release from CSIC.
Developed by CSIC's Yichang Institute of Testing Technology in Hubei province and the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, Hunan province, the float is the best of its kind in China.
Chinese engineers have been rapidly catching up with their Western counterparts in this field, the release said.
The device is able to dive 2,000 meters into the sea and can carry a variety of sensors to collect data. Compared with previous models in China, the new type is friendlier to the marine environment and has a longer service life.
Designers worked with a host of cutting-edge technologies as they developed the device, including ways to convert temperature changes into electricity and using phase-change materials to store mechanical energy, the company said. The Yichang institute has become the first in the country to possess such technology, it said.
Argo is part of the Global Ocean Observing System, which is administered by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. It uses nearly 4,000 drifting floats around the world. The program aims to prevent natural disasters by improving the accuracy of meteorological forecasts.
China joined the Argo program in 2002 and has placed nearly 400 floats in the western Pacific and Indian oceans. About 100 of them remain active, according to the China Argo Real-time Data Center.