Anna - Shapes, Colors, Math, and Arrays Helping Me Identify Plastics and Heavy Metals


Perhaps the most important aspect of my project has been spending a considerable amount of time doing research on intellectual property prior art and peer reviewed articles regarding the various technologies used for identifying plastics in the ocean. Although there are a number of researchers studying microplastics, there aren’t many people who are specifically looking at unique ways to clean up plastics using low cost spectrometry as an active way to identify plastics prior to cleaning them up. Because of that, I have chosen to look specifically at developing something that is low cost, scalable, and allows for high quality, high accuracy identification outside of an expensive laboratory.  
I am focusing on the image processing part of my project, which can be split into two different parts. The first one is detecting the color differences. For example, some colors that are in plastics aren't natural in nature, especially in the ocean floor. I am developing a program that can sense different colors. The second part is the absorption differences, which shows the differences of it's grayscale values. I have been researching things like how to make a path so that the code knows what picture to find. 

For the mercury aspect of my project, I have been researching what wavelength will have the most effect on absorbing mercury. I found out that it absorbs 254nm the best. However, because the range between ultraviolet and infrared is way too large, instead of getting an expensive camera that stretches the entire range, but would not be scalable, I am getting two cameras, one that can sense infrared, and one that can sense ultraviolet. 

Researching this problem has helped me in many ways. Not only have I learned a lot from it, it also guided me to think about potential solutions to my project.