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An Electrical Storm on the Horizon

Can Technology Stimulate Reasoned Debate on Waste Containment


Alan Cheville
Department of Electrical Engineering
Bucknell University


In this fictional case study, the state of Oklahoma has profited by giving incentives for companies to build power plants in rural areas of the state. The "scrubbing" systems used to minimize air pollution create potentially hazardous solid waste. To contain this waste, an impoundment facility has been built on unsuitable land from which water-soluble toxins can leach into groundwater. Student teams design a prototype sensor capable of measuring dissolved oxygen and fluorescein dye in water in order to analyze the runoff from the impoundment facility for toxins. The case was developed for an undergraduate laboratory course in photonics for junior- and senior-level students.


  • To introduce students to practical optical measurements.
  • To introduce students to fundamental concepts in spectroscopy.
  • To have students design and build a fluorescence detection system.


Sensors; light spectroscopy; dissolved oxygen measurement; fluorescence detection; water monitoring; wastewater

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Electrical Engineering  |   Physics  |   Physical Chemistry  |   Environmental Engineering  |  

Date Posted


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