What Light Can Reveal About Water

By Veeshan Narinesingh, STEM Program Co-Leader

Triniim Jones, Dr. Jared Day, Kyle Barthelmy and Tariq Washington in the lab at CCNY

From left, Triniim Jones, Dr. Jared Day, Kyle Barthelmy and Tariq Washington in the lab at CCNY.

From rainbows and clouds to microbe-infested taps, light can tell us a lot about water and reveal its fundamental properties.

In preparation for our June 3 Water Fair, our student research team made up of Michael Alameda, Triniim Jones, Tariq Washington and Kyle Barthelmy is focusing on this intersection of water and light.

On Wednesday, our students visited the Laboratory for Nano and Micro Photonics at City College to conduct the lab work for their research project. When they visited CCNY back in March, they learned about waves, optics and light-matter interaction. With these fundamentals of spectroscopy in hand, the students devised this week’s experiment.

Our students arrived with a variety of water samples: distilled water, tap water, pond water from Central Park, pond water that was filtered through the same filtration system our tippy-tap will use, water with disbursed metal oxides, and sports drink. With guidance from Dr. Jared Day and Aaron Somoroff, a physics student at CCNY and Academic Support Leader at our Foundation, the students measured how the various samples absorbed both visible and infrared light.

A graph illustrating the data gathered when testing Central Park pond water.

In the field, scientists can use absorption data like this to test water quality and even determine the specific contaminants a sample contains.

As our students did their lab work, Dr. Day and Aaron elaborated on some of the fundamentals of scientific research. “How do you prevent contamination?” “Why must we be meticulous with our data?” Our students got a hands-on lesson in the finer points of experimental science.

Michael, Triniim, Tariq and Kyle are now working on analyzing the data they collected and, with the help of Nancy Degnan from the Columbia Water Center, will be preparing a scientific poster to present at the Water Fair on June 3.

Want to see what they learned? RSVP today.


Kyle, Triniim and Tariq in the lab

Triniim and Kyle in the lab