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- The tool, which has been presented at the European Space Agency, is capable of detecting microplastic concentrations of only 1% coverage on the surface of the oceans.
Researchers from the University of Cádiz, coordinated by Professor Andrés Cózar, have carried out important work focused on the design of the first spatial sensor for detecting marine litter . This tool, which was presented to the European Space Agency (ESA) in January, has been developed by a consortium to which belong, in addition to the UCA, entities such as AirBus Space (France), Argans Limited (United Kingdom) and The Ocean Cleanup (Netherlands).
The mission was offered, through a public tender, at the request of ESA itself due to the worldwide need to be able to track the accumulated garbage in the ocean from satellites. Being able to observe ocean pollution globally and on a continuous basis would give researchers and managers wings, but the technological challenge was enormous. In fact, the researchers thought, “The odds of success were minimal given that much of the litter in the ocean is in the form of microplastics (fragments on the order of a few millimeters).” Furthermore, “we were not the only ones who were entrusted with this work, the European Space Agency awarded contracts to different international consortia to carry out the same work in parallel and thus be able to explore this possibility in depth”.
The results of the consortium formed by the University of Cádiz have managed to exceed the best expectations , since, with the technology currently available, the new sensor is capable of detecting garbage at concentrations of only 1% of ocean surface coverage. Thus, “the next step, before its launch on a new satellite, will be the validation of the prototype by airplane.”
The most immediate applications of this sensor go through the mapping of ocean pollution hot spots; the identification and evaluation of global sources of garbage or the control of the effectiveness of the measures applied to combat marine pollution. However, “there are other possible applications that we are studying, such as garbage aggregation tracking to improve browsing security; the search and rescue of air and maritime accidents; locating lost containers or oil spills; natural disasters … etc. and probably other uses that we cannot yet foresee ”, as they explain from the UCA.
Source: Diario de Cadiz