photo by Ken McCown
As global warming and rising human population puts increasing pressure on water supplies—Reuters says that currently 44% of people live in areas with high water stress—quick and accurate ways of testing for water pollution are going to become an even more important issue. A new method developed in Israel for doing so is being described as "listening" to algae to detect pollution.
Laser Beam Shines on Algae, Creates Sound Waves in Water
Researchers have discovered that by shining a laser beam on the algae they can stimulate photosynthesis. Depending on the rate of photosynthesis and the health of algae differing amounts of heat are shot back into the water, creating sound waves. These waves can be picked up by an underwater microphone, allowing the scientists to analyze the health of the algae and the condition of the surrounding water.
Researcher Yulia Pinchasov explains:
Algae suffering from lead poisoning, like waste discharged from battery and paint manufacturing plants, will produce a different sound than those suffering from lack of iron or exposure to other toxins.
The whole testing apparatus is about one square meter in size, and according to Pinchasov can test water quality more accurately than current methods being used.
No commercial version of this product is yet available, but provided funding is secured, one could be ready within two years.