Alumnus develops new underwater technology

BIG SPONSOR- Thomas I. Valdez discusses the U.S. Navy's sponsorship of his self-recharging probe, a robot that measure ocean temperature and uses the temperature to recharge itself. PHOTO BY JESSICA ALVAREZ


By Jessica Alvarez

East Los Angeles College alumnus Dr. Thomas I. Valdez spoke to members of the Priory of Biology and Chemistry and the Chemistry Club about his new project last Wednesday.

Valdez’s project, “Energy Harvesting for Underwater Monitoring,” consists of a probe that is dropped into the ocean and it can not only measure the different ocean temperatures and salinity, but it can also recharge itself.

“This is the first underwater robot completely powered by renewable energy from the ocean environment,” said Valdez.

The robot is named Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangrian Observer Thermal RECharger.

Solo-TREC was deployed from Kilo Moana, Hawaii on Nov. 29, 2009 and it is still being dropped into the ocean today, although many didn’t believe the battery could last this long.

“The battery on this probe has lasted over a year and a half,” said Valdez.

Basically, the probe is dropped 500 meters underwater and stays there for as long as it is programmed to.

The probe then shoots back up to the surface long enough to record the data it collected and it goes back underwater.

“We collect a lot of engineering data,” said Valdez.

The probe also collects GPS data along with the differing temperatures of the ocean and the salinity of the water.

“The interesting thing about this probe is that it can power itself using the ocean,” said Valdez.

The purpose of the probe was to see how the temperatures in the ocean differ in different areas of the world.

“We want to know ocean temperature,” said Valdez, “but the interesting thing is that when you get to 500 meters underwater, the temperature is the same whether you’re in Hawaii or Antartica.”

The POBC and Chemistry Club students were the first group of people to hear Valdez’s presentation.

“You are my guinea pigs. If I can get my point across to you then I know I’m on the right track,” said Valdez.

This project is sponsored by the United States Navy.

“The navy is very interested in this project because this probe is undetectable underwater,” said Valdez.

Valdez also shared some of his memories from launching the probe for the first time.

“I love star-gazing and the first constellation I ever saw was Orion, but when you’re on a ship that jumps at every wave, it’s hard to see anything in the sky,” said Valdez.

Although this was the first time he talked about this particular project, Valdez has lectured at ELAC in the past.

“I was here in October of 2009 also,” said Valdez.

Valdez grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Garfield High School.

The students of the POBC and Chemistry Club are not the only people who will be able to watch Valdez’s presentation.

Valdez is scheduled to make another presentation at a space power workshop in April.


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