SQU students create device to detect marine oil spills

May 15, 2018

L-R: Eng Moza bint Musa al Salami, environmental inspector, and Eng Omran bin Mohammed al Kamzari, director, Pollution Control Centre at MECA along with SQU students Maajid al Yaarubi, Ahmed al Naabi and Waleed al Maawali with the protoype of the robot (Supplied photo)

Three students of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) have made a device that can detect marine oil spills. Ahmed Said al Naabi, Majid Khalifah al Yaarubi and Waleed Mohammed al Maawali who are pursuing a course in mechatronics in the College of Engineering at SQU worked on the project.

Speaking to Muscat Daily , Maawali said, “We started working on the project in September last year and it took us eight months to come out with the device.”

On how they went about pursuing the project, Maawali said, “We found one day that the colour of seawater near marinas is dark. On investigation, we found that it could be due to oil spillage from the engines of docked boats, ships and yachts.”

After research, the team found that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) monitors and handles oil spills. “We spoke to experts in the ministry who deal with the problem and then started working on the project.”

He said that it’s a device mounted on two boat-like structures. “Run on a battery, it can attain a speed of eight knots to reach the location of oil spill in the sea and collect samples from the contamination zone. The device analyses the sample onboard. It then returns to the base station for further analyses of the samples. We have named the device MCTE Penguin (MCTE stands for Mechatronics),” said Maawali.

Talking about the challenges, he said, “The cost of parts to build a similar device is quite high. We had to settle for lesser quality components to build the prototype.

“One has to be aware about naval engineering to work on such a project. That however didn’t deter us as we did extensive research before embarking on the project. We spoke to experts as well as read several articles related to the subject.

“The device was designed as per specifications set by the ministry. We had to redesign the prototype several times before the design was approved. MECA plans to use the device in a demonstration in December. It may accept the device if it proves its worth in this demo. We need funding from private and governmental institutes to work further on the project.”