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Fluorescence technology

Pinpointing oil leaks at sea


Aircraft use long-range radar and scanners to detect the natural fluorescence of oil – but they are expensive and difficult to operate. Many oil companies still primarily rely on unsophisticated visual reports which are not consistently accurate. Many oil leaks are not detected until a slick comes to the surface and is visible to the human eye.


Cambridge Consultants has a long track record of delivering innovative fluorescence detection solutions for challenging applications such as clinical diagnostics equipment, fertility monitors and pregnancy tests, and authentication of valuable documents.

Crude oil is naturally fluorescent – so we used our fluorescence experience to build an oil spill detection technology platform that is capable of detecting the natural fluorescence of even tiny amounts of oil in or on water.

The new technology aims to provide a compact, robust system that can be permanently installed – for example, along subsea pipelines.


Our work shows that fluorescence detection is a powerful, perhaps under-exploited, technique in that it is specific and can be made sensitive enough to be useful. Any reliable oil spill detection system will need to use a combination of measurement principles not only to make the system more robust against failure but also to give a reduced number of false alarms.

An oil spill 'alarm' system of sensors distributed across the seabed – or a series of oil platforms – is going to need a different design solution from a system for scanning a harbour or stretch of coastline. Our world-leading skills in sensor design, data fusion and probabilistic signal processing have enabled us to deliver robust solutions for similar challenges across many different industries – and identify and deliver the optimal solution for a given set of circumstances.