Pioneering water pollution detection researchers work amid global water crises

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Faced with the lack of clean and safe drinking water that affects billions of people around the world, a research team at the University of Alabama, Huntsville is pioneering the potential to revolutionize the way water pollution is detected.

The team is developing a unique system that could be part of solving the growing global problem of access to drinking water.

UAH researchers use glass fibers that are thinner than Capellini pasta to capture the cloudiness of water.
The work funded by the Environmental Protection Agency is still in its infancy.

This could revolutionize the way contaminants are detected in water.

“It really started with two friends chatting,” said Lingze Duan, a physics professor at the UAH. “Doctor Wu, maybe we had lunch a few years ago and she said she had an idea and that it would need fiber optics.”

What started as a conversation received a grant from the EPA to fund the first phase of a project that could completely change the way water quality is monitored.

“It’s definitely very important,” said Duan. “This is something that is really built into our daily life. The water quality is very important to all of us. “

Tingting Wu, professor of environmental engineering, and Duan are very humble about their work.
However, the extent to which their research could change the world is very real.

“This really gives me the opportunity to configure myself for something that potentially many people can benefit from in our daily lives,” said Duan.

Professors Duan and Wu are testing a network of glass fibers with which the water quality can be recorded in real time over long distances.

Water quality is primarily tested by hand or using methods that the UAH says are limited in terms of distance and cost and are difficult to apply to drinking water systems.

The fiber optic system could track water quality across entire waterways and drinking water systems.

“This is just the beginning,” said Duan. “We’re excited to get this thing going. Moving the technology forward is always a challenge. This part is definitely fun. “

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