Public Lab Research note


Oil Testing Kit: draft materials list

by warren | February 04, 2014 21:11 | 4,036 views | 33 comments | #10011 | 4,036 views | 33 comments | #10011 04 Feb 21:11

Read more: unstable.publiclab.org/n/10011


Update: Alpha kits are now available: http://store.publiclab.org/products/spectrometry-sampling-kit

What I want to do

We are developing a "companion kit" for the Public Lab Spectrometer tailored specifically for detecting and identifying petroleum contamination -- mostly for solid residue and tarballs at this point, but hopefully applicable for sheens too at some point.

My attempt and results

Based on a variety of experiments over the past few months (mainly this initial test and this series of more careful tests at Parts & Crafts), we are getting more confident about our ability to detect and identify types of oil contamination; that is, to distinguish motor, heating, and crude oils.

Long story short, you can shine a blue (405nm) laser through a jar of mineral oil which has had a very small amount of the suspected oil dissolved in it, and it'll fluoresce different colors depending on the type of oil it is.

To push this work forward, this new kit will include all of the following, to help people who want to contribute (or just try it out) with all the basic tools and materials. This is supposed to be paired with one of our existing spectrometers, by the way.

Note: We've begun to consolidate the list here

The basic instructions will be something like:

  • Put on latex or nitrile gloves
  • Wet a cotton swab with mineral oil
  • Rub it on the sample -- a suspected tarball or lump of oily residue -- until it gets brownish (it could take a little while for it to dissolve)
  • Dip the dirty swab (that's like a pirate insult... :-P) in one of the square bottles which has been filled 2/3 with mineral oil, and repeatedly and gently dunk it until the brown stuff dissolves and "taints" the mineral oil.
  • Keep dunking until it looks like a very very weak tea -- so you can see the coloration. We need to come up with a standard way to determine how dark... maybe a printed comparison strip?
  • Cap the square jar and throw away the cotton swab (bag it if it's really gross).
  • Throw away the gloves and wash your hands

Then, inside your spectrometer box (to reduce stray light and to protect your eyes from the laser light):

  • Without looking at the laser light directly (it's bad for your eyes!!!), shine the laser through a hole in your box, so the laser shines through your jar perpendicular to the spectrometer opening. We'll illustrate this better but look at the Parts & Crafts note above.
  • Move the laser up and down until you see both the bright laser peak on your SpectralWorkbench.org graph, as well as the broader range of colors that are the fluorescence.

Really do check out the photos from the Parts & Crafts tests mentioned above to see more detail!

in-box

Questions and next steps

This list of materials has to be refined a bit, and maybe adjusted based on prices and availability. I added the olive oil packets because extra virgin olive oil will fluoresce because of the chlorophyll in it -- a good, non-toxic test case.

We also have to be sure people use the laser safely; only inside the box, and never looking at the light, let alone pointing it in their eye or something.

The methodology may need to be improved or adapted. Some samples may not dissolve readily in mineral oil, and methanol (denatured alcohol, from the hardware store) could be an alternative, though it's toxic.

Why I'm interested

Once we get people using this sort of kit, even if it still needs a lot of improvement, we should start making much faster progress at identifying oil samples. To date, lots of folks on SpectralWorkbench.org and in the Public Lab community are still using light bulbs for absorption spectroscopy, and many new spectrometer makers are not sure what to do once they've calibrated their spectrometer. We should get as many folks as possible doing this kind of laser oil testing, so this kit is a high priority.


33 Comments

Count me in! We have lots of muck and mire in NYC to investigate. Conversely, we also have many delicious varieties of olive oil. :)

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I want to test one!

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Hooray!

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If you are asking me if I would allow you to send me one of these kits, for free...sure. How could I say no? I'll see what I can do with it.

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I have done a lot of water quality analysis work using double beam UV/V spectrophotometer to determine phosphates, nitrates, nitrates, ammonia using standard methods. I will get your desk spectrophotometer kit and compare against Hitachi U-2000 (double beam UV/V spectrophotometer) and Hach DR-2000(single beam V spectrophotometer) and see how it compares. Most of these methods have been adapted to use for school and concern environmental groups and as screen or even bench mark tests are quite suitable. It certainly will require chemicals to react and produce colours that can be measured by the desktop spectrophotometer. This could be a way to use a calibrated spectrophotometer. "Lab community are still using light bulbs for absorption spectroscopy, and many new spectrometer makers are not sure what to do once they've calibrated their spectrometer." It would certainly require a lot of adjustments. Well is just a thought.

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Hey Matt - well, not free, but as you can see the cost is going to be pretty darn low.

@Paquicamus - sounds awesome! Could you link to some of the methods you mention? Perhaps they'll influence the ones we're developing. In particular I'm interested in the nitrate method, though it's unrelated to the oil detection.

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matt_p this is scott, gulf coast, i have most of these materials, or their analogues

what i don't have is time

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nice, count us in for testing. based in yogyakarta, indonesia. perfect addition to our current research during hackterialab 2014.

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@dusjagr Marc, awesome! Hey, also can you post that picture of your custom hackteria foldable spec i saw on Facebook to this site so we can cite it?

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I think he already did: http://publiclab.org/notes/dusjagr/04-29-2013/redesign-of-the-foldable-mini-spectro-to-hold-a-cuvette

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Here is an updated file: http://hackteria.org/wiki/index.php/DIY_spectroscopy#Updated_version

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hey jeff, hey scott, i am (still) willing to purchase a kit to help this get off the ground. i'm hoping to have more time in...april. scott, lets get together and work on this sometime down the line.

any winter camp this year? PublicLab spring break maybe? wooooooooooo!

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I saw that note -- thanks for updating it with your update! But i was asking about this great picture of a foldable spec with the hackteria logo on it from Marc about a month ago--I particularly like this image!

Marc_Dusseiller_Dusjagr_-_Hackteria_spec.jpg

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I think I just need some cuvettes. I have the laser and spectrometer. Oh, and perhaps some standard samples.

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I would like to be part of the testing project. I'll buy the kit. When will it be available?

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Great -- Mathew just ordered all the parts yesterday; once they arrive we'll put up an order link on the store. Thanks, this is exciting!

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Markdown: An oil train, presumed to be full of bakken Oil, spilled on tracks between Red Wing and Winona MN along the Mississippi River. I photographed the site, and the putrid orange oil. I would like to use the kit to help find out how much oil is spilled, what is in this orange stuff, and get an idea how much might go in the river and affect the river, which is a major migratory flyway

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For everyone who wanted a sampling kit, the parts for 20 have arrived. e-mail us and we'll share a private purchase link kits@publiclab.org

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Alpha oil testing kits now available!

http://store.publiclab.org/products/spectrometry-sampling-kit

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Tip on 405nm UV LED which then has wide-band RGB phosphors for visible light: http://www.open-photonics.com/featured-technologies/high-cri-leds

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American Science and Surplus is out of the square glass bottles: http://www.sciplus.com/p/WHITCAP-BOTTLE_48212

I called them and they said that the manufacturer discontinued them.

Did Public Lab buy them out? ; )

Any thoughts on a replacement? I'd like to keep a stock of them in house.

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is this the one that is shown in the picture at the top?

It's 45mm tall, and 3.5ml.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/STANDARD-GLASS-CUVETTE-OPEN-TOP-WITH-LID-10MM-3-5ML-/261133481707

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actually, we did buy out all the rest of their stock.

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also, the recommended laser pointer comes with 5 different tops. are those necessary or will the standard tops do?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/405nm-5mW-Violet-Purple-Blue-Ray-Blue-Laser-Pointer-Pen-CR-/181395482090

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you just want a beam. the other tops that are cats and stars and octopuses are not helpful.

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would the ones from ebay that I posted in the comment above be a good replacement?

Cats you say? Then the cat gobo is for sure 1000% necessary. What kind of science are you people running!?! I'm surprised the spectra are appearing clearly at all.

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Actually @stevie and @natalie are sourcing new bottles right now, maybe you can get in on the order. We're hoping to switch to nail polish bottles, and Stevie found a good place to buy them already... Stevie, did you have a chance to post them on the wiki page Natalie mentioned?

Cuvettes, although they are what are used in labs, kind of suck -- amazingly they leak! And are way overpriced. The nail polish bottles are ~$0.50 each.

I want an octopus-shaped laser!!! I've used some of those funny-shaped ones to spread the laser out more, since although it's less bright, it means it's easier to line up with the spectrometer slit.

We're also talking about using UV LEDs, so that may be an option too, although we haven't been able to get them as bright as the laser, using "bouncer" flashlights.

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I did post the ones we were looking at on the page here: http://publiclab.org/wiki/oil-testing-kit#Parts+list

Or the direct links to the ones we were looking at are here: http://www.ebottles.com/showbottles-bottle-1556-kw-ELIQUID_VIALS.htm

http://www.ebottles.com/showbottles-bottle-1329-gclid-Cj0KEQjwopOeBRC1ndXgnuvx8JYBEiQAq4RPt_MBIoRstpRXJzK66iXV1lbaZ6J7TWOot8oR6wDas7QaAops8P8HAQ-kw-NAIL_POLISH_BOTTLES_WITH_BRUSHES___GLASS.htm

also, I like the broader laser idea as well, for lining up purposes... of course, and Not because there animals in the office who might be fun to tease with beaming octopi.

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Boom. Screen_Shot_2014-07-17_at_5.26.12_PM.png

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a confusion about the parts list on the line about the laser:

"or http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/350812684726?lpid=82 to buy just one cuvettes"

two things that could use clarification:

1) The laser pointer link is for 3 pointers of different colors, but you only need the 405nm, right? The caps are optional but some people have expressed use for them. What about these links instead? Bummer. No animal gobos. Sad face emoticon.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2in1-5mw-Blue-Violet-Purple-Laser-Pointer-Pen-With-Star-Cap-405nm-Best-Selling-/301258047058

or if you want more caps:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-in-1-5mW-405nm-Violet-purple-Blue-Laser-Pointer-with-5-Patterns-Star-Caps-/371078275357

2) did you mean "to buy just one laser pointer" instead of "to buy just one cuvettes"?

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Hi, Benjamin - I think we're now going off the parts list on the oil testing kit page: http://publiclab.org/wiki/oil-testing-kit#Parts+list

Yes, I think we meant pointers! Could you post your two links to the wiki page? Thanks!

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sure thing. maybe add something on this page that says "most recent parts list here" where here is the wiki page.

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indeed. Updating now!

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