Splitting Light and Algorithms

27th January 2018

It’s perhaps not as exciting as splitting the atom but it is a whole lot easier and the results are very pretty. Pass a light through a prism or diffraction grating and the white light miraculously splits into its 9 base colours, seven of which are visible.

Shine the light source through water and the same thing happens. The hardest part is finding the pot of gold at the base of the resulting rainbow. Perhaps not as seductive as gold is the ability to derive accurate information from the spectral fingerprint. Biological and Chemical Oxygen Demand, Total Organic Compounds, Nitrates and a whole buffet of other compounds can be derived accurately and easily by inspecting the curve at a particular wavelength.

Last week Thursday, Natasa, Joep, Tracey and I had a meeting about our new Spectral Fingerprint Analyser and we chose to hold it on board my Dutch coastal cruiser “NIM” currently moored in Aalsmeer. Sitting around the cockpit table munching on cakes and sandwiches gave us the opportunity of reviewing and categorising the substantial benefits of this technology without the hindrance of office distractions.

Not revolutionary, not new but unquestionably powerful and a tool which will provide detailed decision-making data in municipal and industrial waste water monitoring applications. Currently, regular analysis of water provide historical data. The spectrum analyser will provide real-time data. As Joep explains, “…errors in water treatment are extremely infrequent but when they do happen the consequences can be huge”. On-line spectral fingerptinting of the water will give immediate feedback and is a powerful new technique which can be added to process control strategies.

And if it is so easy, then why is this technology not already in place? Well, it’s in the algorithms stupid and in future I will follow up with more details about these.

Vincent van Walt, on board “Nim”, January 2018

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