The European Union-funded Hydroptics project is developing integrated sensors that employ advanced photonics subsystems to measure oil-in-water concentration and other impurities in industrial wastewater streams. A sensor based on quantum cascade laser frequency combs has been designed to monitor produced water quality in the oil industry by use of mid-infrared (IR) light sources.

According to project coordinator, Dr. Antoine Muller, "The Hydroptics project is creating a highly accurate oil-in-water analyzer based on cutting edge mid-IR light sources and spectroscopy techniques. Our highly sensitive analyzer will optimize several critical stages in oil production as well as control downstream processing routines for final mineral oil product development. Frequency comb quantum cascade laser source will enable scientists to rapidly measure the area of the absorption peak related to deformation vibration of the methyl groups."

Unlike existing quantum cascade lasers, the new technology returns measurement data in minutes. Rapid, accurate tracking of water quality parameters is facilitated by use of two lasers to continuously monitor oil-in-water trends for longer durations.

A prototype oil-in-water online analyzer is planned for testing in an oil refinery by 2023. The photonic device is expected to find additional applications in sewage treatment plants, food processing facilities and other industries needing to conduct molecular detection in liquids or gases.

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