PhD: Surveying the marine environment for microplastics using a novel hyper-spectral infra-red camera on a UAV

Lead Research Organisation: Scottish Association For Marine Science
Department Name: Scottish Association For Marine Science


Pollution from land-derived macro- and micro- plastics is accumulating in the oceans; there is growing
concern as these pollutants enter the oceanic and human food chain. The scale of the problem is only now
being revealed, because the substances are difficult to detect with standard remote sensing technique
(visible or radar wavelength: from ships or satellite). Most plastics have a well-known spectral signature,
however, in the mid-range Infra-red that is, wave lengths of 2.5um to 22um (4000 - 450cm-1). Commercial
mid-IR spectrometers (not cameras) can detected and identified samples of plastics quite simply in the
The student will work with Dr. Hugh Mortimer at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories to modify
a mid-range Infra-Red (mid-IR) hyper-spectral camera that he has developed. This camera takes multiple
images of the surface, with each image in a separate wave-band in the mid-IR. Some of these bands 'see'
plastics whilst others don't, but by combining and comparing different bands, plastics can be detected
against a back-ground of water, rocks or sand.


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