An Image-Based Method for Measuring Black Smoker Discharge

I am currently developing a seafloor camera system to determine flow rates through black smoker hydrothermal vents using image analysis. Because black smoker fluids are typically very hot (> 360 C), acidic, and are precipitating minerals as they mix with seawater, it is not possible to obtain long time-series measurements of discharge in these systems using invasive flow measurement techniques. The system I am now developing is based on optical plume velocimetry, an optical flow technique using intensity data in the time direction. The instrument under development will soon provide important constraints on the fluxes of fluids, heat, and chemicals through black smoker vents, and may help define and understand the links between mechanical processes such as tidal loading and plate tectonics, and other processes such as subseafloor biological productivity.

The device I am now building is based on theory that I developed using video sequences of simulated black smoker flows in the laboratory with known discharge rates. To read more about the laboratory and theoretical work, please see my paper published in Experiments in Fluids, or see this poster (726 kB PDF).

Additional Files

Below is a sample movie showing a simulated black smoker in action.

You can also download a ~1 MB Quicktime movie here.