It’s something I don’t like to think about–but I have to as part of my job.

In the United States, we consider safe, clean drinking water to be a normal part of life. But there are some bad people in the world. People who want to harm us, or cause panic and chaos. Since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security required public water systems to perform risk assessments to find our vulnerabilities. And to take steps protect our water systems.

We’ve made a lot of improvements (I can’t tell you what they are due to security reasons) but nobody has a completely secure system.

Professor Abraham Katzir, a physisict at Tel Aviv University, developed a new system to protect drinking water supplies. Professor Katzir created special fibers that can detect colors in the infared spectrum. People can’t see colors in this spectrum, though certain animals like bats and snakes can, and use them to track prey.

Professor Katzir

Professor Katzir

By connecting the special fibers to a colorimeter, Professor Katzir was able to detect poisons in the water at very low levels.

These sensors could be used in remote locations like reservoirs, pipelines or storage tanks to detect water contamination in real time. Being able to identify threats immediately could save lives and prevent widespread panic. Let’s face it, even a chemical that was harmless could cause chaos if it made the water taste funny.

Special Fibers Can Detect Low Levels of Water Contamination

Special Fibers Can Detect Low Levels of Water Contamination

Currently, water utilities run water quality tests regularly, but no technology is in use today that can detect such a wide variety of low-level contaminants in real time.

While the threat of chemoterrorism is remote, the old saying “better safe than sorry” certainly applies here. Let’s hope Professor Katzir’s invention makes it to the street sooner rather than later.

Photos from the Tel Aviv University website.

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