Where’s Waldo? Using LEDs to Stop Oil Damage, Of Course

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Oceana have launched the most recent plan of attack to protect the Florida Keys from oil plumes, and his name is Waldo.

“Waldo” is a 6-1/2 foot long underwater robot that can detect oil residue in the water and automatically send alerts to researchers, who will, in turn, perform tests and communicate with the local government.

So how does he do it?  As Waldo travels through the water, he sends out ultraviolet light with an LED.  If the water contains oil, it will absorb the LED light and re-emit it.  Any time Waldo detects light emission, he sends a signal to researchers.

Who knew LED lights could ever help with the oil spill?

Just to clarify, white LEDs do not emit infrared or ultraviolet light – that’s why they are useful for art galleries and museums, where this type of light can damage artwork.  However, Waldo does not use white LEDs, which is why he is able to use ultraviolet light to detect oil plumes.

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.