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Photonic ultimate sensing (PULSE) and monitoring of permafrost environments

The north is evolving rapidly under the pressure of social and economic development in a context of accelerating climate changes. To improve our understanding of these dynamics, we propose novel photonic platforms to monitor parameters critical to the sustainable development of the north, namely permafrost degradation below ground and at surface, greenhouse gas emissions, and water properties. This research addresses the following needs:

  1. Sensing deep permafrost: Distributed fibre optic sensing systems deployed in deep borehole will provide multi-parameter sensing, including temperature, strain, groundwater pressure and flow rate, to ensure the sustainable and safe exploitation of mineral deposits below the permafrost base.
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions: Silicon photonic sensors will monitor gas build-up from natural and industrial sources (e.g. CH4, CO and CO2) in underground mineral exploitation and degrading permafrost environment.
  3. Resolving ground surface dynamics: Buried fiber optic sensors and adaptive cameras for 3D imaging will be co-installed a test site to monitor the impacts of permafrost degradation such as thaw subsidence of the ground surface. High-resolution ground movement monitoring will provide key inputs to models describing the ecosystem dynamics and predicting the stability of man-made infrastructures.
  4. Water quality monitoring with self-powered sensors: Autonomous energy source based on benthic microbial fuel cell will be developed to power up microfluidic and silicon photonic sensors. These sensors will find application in thermokarst ponds and wells.

Outcomes of this sub-project will be robust, low power consumption, and versatile platforms acting as unique sentinels of northern environments under stress: fiber-based sensors, silicon photonic integrated sensors, self-powered microfluidic sensors, and adaptive 3D cameras that will provide essential information to cold-regions engineers (ex. mining, geotechnical, and civil), and scientists (hydrogeologists, biologists and chemists) for the sustainable development of the north.