University of Northampton COP26 hosts HORIBA display using light to analyse our waters

The device uses light to analyse tiny microplastics in our water

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 8:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 8:36 am
Doctor FitzGerald (right) and Ifigenia Balkoura (left) demonstrate how their device DuettaTM is used

Representatives of the global tech company HORIBA showcased how light can be used to learn more about microplastics in water during the University of Northampton's (UoN) COP26 event.

Devices made by the company analyse tiny microplastic particles in water by shining bright light onto them, then analysing the change in colour of that light.

Through this method, scientists can quickly and accurately asses which types of microplastics are in the water and in what quantities, helping to discern the biggest causes of plastic pollution in our waters.

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Light is a non-contact and non-destructive way of testing and preserving samples

Microplastics are found throughout the environment now. While their toxicity and the potential hazard they may cause is not understood yet, it is known that once present in water they can be ingested by fish, which are then eaten by birds, other predators and ultimately humans.

Dr Simon FitzGerald, the Technical Manager at HORIBA UK, says their device will massively increase scientists' ability to detect and thus remove these microplastics at

He said: "When you shine light on things, you can learn so much about them.

"You can identify microplastics through light analysis, and with this knowledge scientists know how many there are and where they are coming from.

"A major source is clothing made from polymer materials, like fleeces and so on. Microplastics can come off in the wash and end up getting drained away and this contributes to the microplastics in our oceans and rivers.”

HORIBA also displayed a fascinating device called Duetta™, which can be used to study water quality, and provide insight into how oceans store greenhouse gases within their water.

Dr FitzGerald added: "Our aim with this instrument, which is part of our wide portfolio of analysers, is to provide scientists with the means to obtain useful data in the blink of an eye and enable them to form an accurate picture of what is in the water."

Ifigenia Balkoura, a marketing communications representative for HORIBA UK, says that the aim of their participation in the UoN event was to increase the understanding of how technology and science can contribute to the development of a sustainable future for all.

She said: "Duetta™ is a rather unique machine as it combines two different analysis methods in one. So, from this perspective we are excited to see how it is used in the future.”

"We are providing scientists with the tools to investigate important problems. We provide them with data that ultimately can yield incredible knowledge about the environment and our planet.”

"We are working collaboratively with universities and industrial organisations alike to learn what their needs are now and what they expect them to be in the future. We can then design and manufacture solutions that meet those needs with our instrumentation, so they can best achieve their objectives."

With tech like this on display today, it will be interesting to see what new discoveries can be made in future as yet another COP26 roles on.