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Characterization of Buoyant Fluorescent Particles for Field Observations of Water Flows

Flavia Tauro, Matteo Aureli, Maurizio Porfiri, and Salvatore Grimaldi

(UV Fluorescent Microspheres: 710-850um)


In this paper, the feasibility of off-the-shelf buoyant fluorescent microspheres as particle tracers in turbid water flows is investigated. Microspheres’ fluorescence intensity is experimentally measured and detected in placid aqueous suspensions of increasing concentrations of clay to simulate typical conditions occurring in natural drainage networks. Experiments are conducted in a broad range of clay concentrations and particle immersion depths by using photoconductive cells and image-based sensing technologies. Results obtained with both methodologies exhibit comparable trends and show that the considered particles are fairly detectable in critically turbid water flows. Further information on performance and integration of the studied microspheres in low-cost measurement instrumentation for field observations is obtained through experiments conducted in a custom built miniature water channel. This experimental characterization provides a first assessment of the feasibility of commercially available buoyant fluorescent beads in the analysis of high turbidity surface water flows. The proposed technology may serve as a minimally invasive sensing system for hazardous events, such as pollutant diffusion in natural streams and flash flooding due to extreme rainfall.