Development of Particle Tracking Technology

Jack Poleykett, PhD Researcher at the Centre for Global Eco Innovation (Lancaster University), is leading an innovative project entitled ‘Development of Particle Tracking Technology’.

The aim being to improve particle tracking methodologies to increase flexibility and improve data collection for industry based studies, which will also reduce related costs. The project uses unique dual signature tracers developed and owned by UK leading data acquisition and consultancy company Partrac, an industry partner for the PhD program.

Particle tracking provides qualitative and quantitative data regarding the spatial and temporal dynamics of sediments and soil. Determining the source, pathway and fate of sediment and the associated contaminants is desirable due to growing environmental concern and economic consequences.

However, research has predominantly focused on the effectiveness of various types of tracers, with little emphasis on how they are deployed, monitored and recovered. The effectiveness of different tracer materials is highly dependent on deployment, monitoring and recovery methodologies.

The focus of the project is to improve each stage of the methodology to enable both, original application of the technique, and achieve robust data collection at industry significant spatial scales.

This project utilizes a unique tracer supplied to Lancaster University by Partrac who develop proprietary tracers called ‘dual signature’ tracers; each particle (grain) of tracer has two signatures, which are used to identify the particle unequivocally following introduction into the environment. The use of more than one signature is an advancement and improvement on previously used (mono-signature) tracers. Partrac has four different color tracers, identifiable by the fluorescent properties and paramagnetic characteristics.

The project’s key achievement to date is the development of an analytical method able to quantify the mass (g) of two unique tracer colors (namely, green and pink), from within environmental samples. This significantly increases the flexibility of the technique as it enables the investigation of two different sediment sources and/or two different particle size fractions.

A reduction in analytical timescales has improved the precision of the technique, increasing both the spatial and temporal scales at which particle tracking studies can be conducted, ultimately making the technique more cost effective for commercial studies – a key aim of the project.

The future of the project focuses on both traditional and original application of the technology in the marine environment and original method development within the terrestrial environment.


Press Release, September 17, 2014

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