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JAMSTEC researchers develop seabed exploration tech

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunA team belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) has developed a new method to explore seabed hydrothermal deposits that contain valuable metals such as gold and copper. The method detects low voltages from the metals in a deposit, and makes it possible to effectively find deposits in dark, deep waters where sunlight does not reach, according to the team.

Hydrothermal deposits are formed by metallic elements that are discharged from undersea volcanoes and then cooled into solid form by seawater. There are hopes for these deposits as a new undersea natural resource, but exploring them is difficult. In Japan, hydrothermal deposits have been found only in waters around Okinawa Prefecture and the Ogasawara Islands.

The team focused on the fact that the metals in a deposit react with the oxygen in seawater and generate low voltages.

The team developed a method by which a device to detect voltage is dropped into the sea from a mother ship and then pulled around the seabed to find deposits. According to the team, the size of a deposit can be determined by applying electricity from the device to the deposit and monitoring the current within the deposit via an about 100-meter cable extended from the device.

“This technology is convenient for effectively exploring the vast seafloor, and we were able to find deposits that were already known about [thereby proving the device’s effectiveness]. We want to apply this to utilizing undersea resources,” said Katsuhiko Suzuki, deputy director of the Research and Development Center for Submarine Resources of the JAMSTEC.Speech

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