- Photonics and the environment
As this issue goes to press, a dark black cloud of crude oil is still swirling and spreading throughout
the Gulf of Mexico, as anywhere from 5000 to 80,000 barrels a day (various government,
corporate and scientific sources are not in agreement on the number) escape from
a damaged well, weeks after the initial explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd.’s
drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, which was licensed to BP.
And while crews race to monitor and contain the spill –
and try to mitigate the damage as much as possible – photonics technologies
are lending a hand.
BP has been using submarine-mounted cameras to keep an eye on
the spill, and NASA’s eyes in the sky, including the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer,
have been watching from above. Satellite images, both radar and optical, of the
area from the European Space Agency’s Envisat are helping officials use the
remote sensing technologies to formulate a response.
This is an Envisat optical image of the oil spill (visible as a white whirl on the right)
in the Gulf of Mexico, acquired from the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on
April 25, 2010, at 16:28 UTC (universal time corrected). Courtesy of European Space Agency.
Those of us in the industry know the often-unsung advantages of
photonics for situations exactly like this, and we thank the developers, manufacturers
and researchers who have brought these and other useful light-based technologies
to life to enhance not only pollution disaster recovery efforts but also other applications
that affect the environment.
We all know that photonics has great potential to affect the planet.
But, sometimes, the planet affects the photonics community, too. Although the World
Health Organization reported that the volcanic eruption in Iceland has not caused
significant changes in ground-level air quality in Europe and is not expected to
cause health risks, the billowing plume snarled air and ground traffic throughout
Among those affected were attendees of the European Machine Vision
Association Business Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Photonics Media’s own
European sales manager, Penny Pretty, recounts her epic journey across Europe to
get home from the event – sharing all the highs and lows, all the humor and
frustration – at www.photonics.com. How did the
eruption affect your travels? Leave a comment on our Web site and tell your tale.
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