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Photonics21: making waste-water eco-friendly by using photonics technology

Photonics21 is European technology platform that unites the majority of the leading photonics industries. The platform aims to establish Europe as a leader in the development and deployment of photonics technologies within the various applications fields such as ICT, lighting, industrial manufacturing, life science, safety as well as in education and training.

The term ‘Photonics’ is used to describe the physical science of light (photon) detection, generation and manipulation through transmission, emission, signal processing, modulation, amplification, sensing and switching. The press release describes that this science will now be used to detect traces of toxic substances in waste-water. Researchers from Swiss engineering firm, Alpes Lasers have teamed up with a group of oil industry partners and academic institutes to create a new laser system that will make toxic waste-water harmless by detecting the tiniest concentrations of oil and suspended solids in water. Harmful ‘waste-water’ by-products are created particularly when naturally occurring ‘crude oil’ is, processed, distilled and refined to make new, useful fuels like diesel, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum. This new light-based analyser looks to place fewer pollutants into the environment during oil refining while simultaneously optimising core processes in water extraction from crude oil by 10%.

The EU is the second-largest producer of petroleum products in the world after the United States, with a crude refining capacity of about 15 million barrels per day, representing 16% of total global capacity. With this new sensitive oil-in-water analyse, Europe will gain a significant industrial lead. A prototype of the new method is expected to be ready by 2023.