Public Lab Research note

Report: Public Lab Workshop at Sunview

by Matej | February 19, 2016 01:48 19 Feb 01:48 | #12713 | #12713

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What Did We Do

Saturday February February 13th we held an oil testing and oil collection workshop at the beautiful old diner, Sunview Luncheonette, in Greenpoint Brooklyn right near Newtown Creek. Adjacent to the area of one of the largest (but not widely known) oil spills in the US history. As mentioned in the invitiation. We did this in collaboration with the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA), Sunview Luncheonette (obviously) and CLAKULA Productions (as a PR partner). Prior to the workshop we did an oil collecting field trip in Dutch Kills area of Newtown Creek, together with Willis Elkins from the North Brooklyn Boat Club and NCA. You can read more about the field trip here. For this collection we first used the Coastguard Oil Collection Kit from General Oceanic and PIG Oil Absorbent Only Mats for a larger spill. We took also a water sample from both places. Two days after we gathered at Sunview to analyze the Samples.

Our Attempt and Results

For the oil extraction we used the Freezing Method, Alcohol extraction, and mineral oil extraction both for the PIG Mats.


We used the mineral oil extraction also for the Coastguard Oil Collection Kit. Except the alcohol test all of these methods were tested before only in a “laboratory setting” with “ideal” ratios of oil and water mixture. This was the first time we tested them actually in the field.

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Coastguard Oil Spill Kit Extraction

The freezing Method: Water samples was collected from the surface and 2” to 3” deep. this water sample contained oil sheen. The night before the workshop I split part of the sample into two 1oz plastic jars and froze them. During the workshop we use cotton swabs to collect the residuum from the surface and diluted it in 1ml of mineral oil in the cuvette. We detected changes in the measured spectra compared to just pure mineral oil. (I will post the spectra soon)

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Jeff tested oil dilution using 91% isopropyl alcohol on a crude oil. Please see his spectra in the comment section of this research note. This technique is very promising because it allows for concentration of the sample using evaporation techniques.

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oil dilution using 91% isopropyl alcohol

We did our spectral measurements on a new prototype of the LED cuvette frame. Presented by Jeff.

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Questions and next steps

This is just a beginning. As a matter of fact all of the above mentioned techniques were tested for the first time in the field, and some first time ever. I kind of wish we will have more time and warmer, well ventilated environment. 4 hours was certainly not enough :-) All things we tested look very promising and exciting! We should do this productive gathering again.

Special thanks to Liz Barry for helping us organize everything and ordering testing kits!!!

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This was a super great event. I have a draft of a followup post about LED and alcohol tests -- will post on Monday, I believe!

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