Public Lab Research note

DIY fluorometer and solvent free extraction and dispersion of oil in water

by jakemartin | July 12, 2016 22:15 12 Jul 22:15 | #13285 | #13285

What I want to do

Measure small amounts of oil in water making use of solvent free extraction and dispersion of oil in water.

My attempt and results

The full details are posted on my blog but briefly making use of a non-toxic extraction using a detergent I was able to disperse the oil into the solution and detect 100 ppm of olive oil in water.


Sample Frequency (Hz) Water 42.9±0.2 Triton X-100 45.0±0.2 100 ppm olive oil 55.1±0.2 1000 ppm olive oil 62.3±0.2 Pure olive oil 5985 Room lights 20,000

Questions and next steps

I would really like to integrate this into a sheild for a low-cost microcontroller like an Arduino.


Improving the detection limit could be done by integrating some optics into the design.

Another next step is to work out sampling methods to allow for comparisons with different samples. (which have probably already been developed by environmental agencies)

Why I'm interested

Identifying the type of oil is the first step in determining what oil pollution is present however it would be excellent to quantify the oil pollution. I am also interested in measuring turbidity of water using this as I think the light sensor is accurate enough.

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Wow, this sounds very cool! What's an L2F detector? Would this work for other fluorescing oils and would it be likely to be able to distinguish them?

Thanks for posting!

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A L2F is a light to frequency converter.

This would work for any fluorescing oils such as crude oil.

To distinguish them you would need to look at emissions at different wavelengths so using different coloured filters. However I think using a spectrograph and looking at the whole spectrum is the most helpful in characterising oils and then use something like this to measure the amount of oil in a sample. However the idea of dispersing the oil with detergent would help in collecting a better fluorescence spectrum from the oil.

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Wow, just going through this, it's amazing. Would you be willing to repost your blog in full so folks could reproduce the steps on the site here? Lots of people would be interested!

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Also, we're very interested in turbidity measurements -- there's a lot coming together here: and this seems like a really cool direction!

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