The fate of particulate matter in the ocean is determined in large part by its size and settling rate. Disaggregation, caused by turbulence-induced shear, acts to fracture or erode large particles into slower-settling sub-aggregates and primary particles. The strength and breakup response of organic marine aggregates (i.e. marine snow particles consisting of phytoplankton) is poorly understood, limiting our ability to accurately predict marine particle transport effects on the global carbon cycle. A study was conducted to enable the investigation of disaggregation effects on these organic marine particle aggregates. Due to the fragile nature of the Phytoplankton cells and their resulting aggregates, test facilities that do not rely on external sampling or pumps are required. A novel rolling aggregation tank was developed that can both aggregate phytoplankton cells under varying hydrodynamic conditions and then expose them to calibrated shear forces using laminar oscillating flow. The theory behind the operation of this tank is presented along with the necessary operating conditions to create stable regions within the tank where particle settling effects are minimal but shear is still representative of values expected in the open ocean. Phytoplankton was cultured in the laboratory to create simulated marine snow particles in the open ocean for disaggregation experiments. The procedure to calculate and track the shear-history of each aggregate is described and how the data generated from this facility will be used to quantify disaggregation parameters relevant for population balance modeling is discussed.

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