European scientists are spearheading a Hydroptics project to detect minute traces of toxic substances in wastewater.
According to The Engineer, Switzerland’s Alpes Lasers has teamed up with a group of oil industry partners and academic institutes to create an ultrafast sensor that will make toxic wastewater harmless by detecting the tiniest concentrations of oil and suspended solids in water.
The laser system incorporates AI and Machine Learning and this should help it to continuously monitor water in a live setting without the need for sampling or preparation.
According to the scientists, the sensor uses hyperspectral imaging to detect microscopic pathogens indistinguishable to the human eye or conventional imaging methods.
Harmful ‘wastewater’ by-products are often created when crude oil is processed, distilled and refined to make fuels including diesel, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum.
Refineries do make use of acoustics to identify all the constituents in crude oil. But despite such measures, some dangerous elements are known to remain in wastewater.
The Hydroptics project is thus seeking to place fewer pollutants into the environment during oil refining while simultaneously optimising core processes in water extraction from crude oil by 10%.
The Hydroptics team is currently working on what it claims to be the most sensitive and one of the first water analysers to use Quantum Cascade Laser Frequency Combs.
Quantum Cascade Lasers Frequency Combs are novel laser sources that provide equidistant coherently linked optical modes in the mid-IR range, and are used in spectroscopy applications.
“Our scientists at Hydroptics are using two lasers to continuously monitor the oil-in-water content for long periods, which is not possible with current techniques that use a single laser,” says Project coordinator, Dr Sargis Hakobyan.
“We are also developing machine learning techniques to collect and analyse data to refine the extraction process.”
“Essentially, Hydroptics will enable Europe’s oil industry to have a better yield with less waste, to have a by-product we can re-use while having a positive environmental impact.”
Image and content: Yogendra Singh-Pexels/The Engineer