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ARA Technology Shines Light on Gulf Oil Spill Detection

Learn how portable LVUV Illuminators can pinpoint oil, tar balls on the beach and in coastal wetlands

Applied Research Associates is leading the way in helping detect the environmental effects of the widespread Gulf of Mexico oil spill with its LVUV (Low Voltage Ultra Violet) Illuminator which fluoresces hydrocarbons.

With the LVUV Illuminator manufactured and sold by ARA’s Vermont-based Vertek Division, cleanup crews and scientists can easily spot washed-up oil and tar balls in wetland mud and beach sand.

Much of the crude oil and tar balls that are contaminating the Gulf Coast beaches are virtually undetectable with the naked eye, but deposited tar balls, often covered by sand, glow a bright orange and yellow under the powerful LVUV Illuminator. While tar balls can indicate coastline contamination, it is very likely that vast areas of beach and wetland coastlines are being contaminated without detection.

“The LVUV Illuminators’ detection capability provides a timely response to a critical national problem,” said ARA scientist John Haas, one of the driving forces behind this detection capability.

Ultraviolet LED technology is the cleanest and most efficient method of monitoring the oil spill by discriminating the crude oil from sand, mud, sea life and saltwater. Natural beach materials can glow under UV illumination, making it essential that the UV lights detect hydrocarbons present only in the washed-up crude oil product. LVUV Illuminators specifically target crude oil hydrocarbon detection. Crude oil and its products floating in the Gulf of Mexico, in wetlands and marshes, and washing up on beaches in trace amounts can be detected and monitored over time by "fluorescing" the area at night; more beach area can also be covered with the Illuminator lights during low tides.

This ARA technology can be used by governmental, environmental and commercial entities in various sizes, and an Illuminator kit includes a spotlight, hydrocarbon color fluoresce chart and a set of protective glasses.

The LVUV Illuminators also ensure:

  • An extensive, trustworthy and timely way for monitoring and recording cleanup progress
  • The highest power UV spotlights on the market
  • Ease of use with the capacity to be handheld or outfitted to any vehicle, land or sea, to scan above ground or on the water surface for contaminants.
  • Portability with add-on Lithium Polymer Battery Pack

Contact Shane Clarke at ARA’s Vertek Division at (802) 728-4588 or email for more information. Visit for more details.