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Public Lab Research note

Making Grand Isle Coffee: Team Orca

by eustatic | August 01, 2013 01:24 01 Aug 01:24 | #8949 | #8949

What I want to do

As part of Team Orca, I wanted to work on a method

to process tar balls cheaply for spectrometry to test for the presence of oil in sands to test that the oil in the sand is BP's oil.

I also wanted to build my first Public Lab Spectrometer. The spectrometry list is full of awesome suggestions I don't have time to really process or incorporate, and so I just slapped together the basic Public Lab spectrometer out of the box. And I think I read the directions incorrectly, but so it goes.

I spent a weekend with Dr. Courtney Kearney of NRL at Stennis, building the spectrometer and processing samples.

Jonathan Henderson and I collect tar balls from the Coasts of Louisiana and Alabama. The Coast Guard will no longer do regular cleanup of the Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida coasts. Louisiana has driven a harder bargain and maintained the response presence.

Soon, it will fall on Alabama's Department of Environmental Managment to clean up BP's tar balls, and we know that means much will not be cleaned up.

My attempt and results

I searched around to find the cuvettes Jeff uses, but could only find square glass dropper jars from Home Science Tools.

I got crappy gloves at Walgreens. I don't think these gloves are made for male hands.

The tar balls come from a February 2013 sampling trip that Johnathan Henderson conducted.

caption: grand isle tar balls and mineral oil, stirrer

**caption: getting ready to make samples into the cuvettes

**caption: stirring

**caption: stirred, shaken, wait a day, open the jar

**caption: make the first dilution. repeat for x100 dilution. the "x10" is very approximate.

**caption: an array of samples. the coal jar sample was not stirred well, will try again.

**caption: it's a lot of light, but we needed to blast the light through to get a signal

Questions and next steps


Hi Scott -- what kind of light are you using?

When i've done this, i've let it settle in a clear container so I can see that all the muck has really settled to the bottom, and I'm only eyedropping yellowish, but transparent, completely dissolved material, into the sample jars. Then not as much light is needed. I also think the green laser technique tends to be the most sensitive.

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Also, i ended up ordering those crude oil samples online: http://publiclab.org/notes/warren/05-03-2013/crude-oil-samples-for-purchase-online

I'm happy to send some to you or to do tests here which might let us correlate your tar samples with known oil sample spectra.

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