Ocean Plastic & Oil Spectrometer

In 2014, a large oil spill devastated the world largest mangrove forrest, the 2014 Sundarbans oil spill. The emotional impact on Cesar Jung-Harada students triggered the desire to prototype this fluorospectrometer largely based on the Public Lab designs.

Fluorospectrometry is a well-known technology but here, we tried to make our own low-cost version and see if that affordable DIY instrument could be calibrated to produce repeatable and accurate measures from household products.

The results were encouraging and we sent our oil contamination sensor to our friends in Dhaka.

Thanks to the Harbour School and the Dhaka Tech Academy.


Oil spills happen all around the world all the time. Citizens need to monitor and understand their environment. In Hong Kong we also had an oil spill in Lamma Island in 2013. See videos of the Lamma Oil Spillwalking in the rockscleaning up.



"More than 358’000L of thick furnace oil leaked from a wrecked tanker into the Bangladesh Sundarbans mangrove forrest, inflicting devastating consequences on the environment, the community's health and many animals. The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve home of the Bengal tiger and the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. Many local children were involved in the cleanup effort and were exposed to toxic chemicals.

The global community felt powerless as the oil kept flowing. The students from The Harbour School wanted to help. We designed and improved a simple low-cost technology that enables measurement of oil pollution in water. The device is an oil spill sensor, also named Fluorospectrometer. We hacked a laser pointer, a HD webcam, a DVD, razor blades and chemical flasks that we bought in Sham Shui Po. The simple sensor can be used with any computer. We built, tested and sent the sensor to Bangladesh to a local school so that they could measure the oil pollution level in the water, and identify which water is safe to drink, fish in, wash with and swim in.


Our Intention

1. Analyse Aerial photography / video taken on site 2. Getting water samples around Hong Kong and Dhaka  3. Spectrography of water samples 4. Mapping oil over time 5. Evaluating oil spill immediate and long term impact


Hong Kong, China SAR

Dhaka, Bangladesh


1. Jan 10, 13:30-18:30 : Introduction to Sunderbans Oil Spill 2. Jan 17, 13:30-18:30 : Start prototyping the spectrometer 3. Jan 24, 13:30-18:30 : Field testing on the Spectrometer 4. Jan 31, 13:30-18:30 : Improvement 5. Feb 7, 13:30-18:30 : Mapping Samples / Spectrographs / Sending instruments to Bangladesh partners 6. Feb 14, 13:30-18:30 : The Final Prototype References 1. http://www.wsj.com/articles/bangladesh-labors-to-clean-up-oil-spill-that-threatens-the-sundarbans-1418299628 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundarbans 3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jywarren/public-lab-diy-spectrometry-kit 4. https://www.facebook.com/thetechschoolbd 5. http://www.caffebd.org/ 6. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2014/dec/28/study-sundarbans-food-chain-broken-oil-spill  7. http://www.thedailystar.net/oil-spill-takes-toll-on-aquatic-life-56348 8. http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer 9. http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer-construction 10. http://publiclab.org/wiki/oil-testing-kit 11. http://spectralworkbench.org/ 12. http://publiclab.org/notes/mathew/12-06-2014/a-paper-spectrometer-design-pt-2 13. Existing research by Khulna University : http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2014/dec/28/study-sundarbans-food-chain-broken-oil-spillKhulna University Environmental Science Faculty Directory : http://esdku.net/faculty/ 14. UN reports "Limited Damage" by Emilia Wahlstrom (assesment starting about 2 weeks after the oil spill): https://uk.news.yahoo.com/un-sees-limited-impact-bangladeshs-sundarbans-oil-spill-160138706.html#SRvA9Ka 15. Facebook group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/SundarbansOilSpil/ 16. Website about Sunderbans Oil Spill : http://www.savethesundarbans.org