A small device that can detect oil spills has been developed by researchers in Spain.
The device is designed to float on the water’s surface and remotely monitor small areas for signs of pollution.
The optical sensor uses the multi-coloured sheen – known as fluorescence – found on oil when it’s in contact with water to determine the presence of oil spills and pinpoint the type of oil present.
The leader of the research team, Jose Salgueiro, said: “Fast detection of a spill is crucial for a quick antipollution response to avoid, as much as possible, the progressive mixture of the oil into the water, which would make cleaning more difficult and inefficient.”
Current methods to detect spills use aircraft or satellites and are complicated, expensive and don’t detect spills until they have spread over a large area.
“Also, knowing the oil type makes possible a more specific response to counteract the pollution,” he added.
Although the sensors work best at night as they contain their own light source, they still work effectively in the day.
Now that lab testing has proven successful, the researchers based at Universidade de Vigo plan to make a solar-powered prototype for real world testing.