PlanetSolar, the world’s first solar-powered catamaran, has become part of a marine science mission. It is hired to be the mode of transport for the Deepwater Project, a scientific mission led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) to collect data on the Gulf Stream’s behavior, the Ocean’s current responsible for maintaining Europe’s climate temperate.
The advantage of using PlanetSolar for such an expedition is that it’s emissions-free; it doesn’t discharge any exhaust fumes which can significantly contaminate measurements of the scientific experiment. Special technologies will be used to study the air at the Ocean’s surface, the atmosphere in the region and the water, including micro-algae, plankton and other microorganisms, at different depths.
The Gulf Stream was already a source of scientific curiosity at the time of the Ben Franklin in 1969, when Jacques Piccard, with other five men, drifted underwater with the Grumman/Piccard mesoscaphe for 30 days largely carried by the Ocean’s current. It was an effort to study what was already then considered a “vast and mysterious phenomenon” still inspiring researchers today.
The Stream’s general flow is three-dimensional: a surface current bringing heat from the tropics to the Arctic, a return current at the depths of the Ocean and a “source” of this movement. The source, however, is unknown and scientists are trying to locate the areas where the transition is abrupt to understand entire cycle of the Stream to better predict the consequences of any potential disruption of the flow.
PlanetSolar, November 2, 2012