It’s not the sexiest invention, but it’s one that people afraid of public or hotel pools might need — a urine and feces detector. Yes, your eyes might not be good enough. The device, which claims to be able to detect indicators of the presence of human and other mammal waste that are up to millionths of times smaller than conventional methods, comes from researchers at Texas A&M University.
The jig is up Ryan Lochte! (The swimmer told Ryan Seacrest during the last summer Olympics that “of course!” he pees in pools.)
Texas researches say the key to trace-level feces and urine detection is to zero in on something known as uroblin, a byproduct of the urine and feces of all sorts of mammals, from Lochtes to livestock. The detector works by trapping and exciting uroblins, then mixing them with zinc ions, which makes the byproduct glow under ultraviolet light. The results are near-instantaneous.
Of course, public pools aren’t what this device will be most useful for. (Face it, we’ll be swimming in pee forever). Instead, this device has huge potential to eliminate illnesses like polio, typhoid and cholera, that people can get from consuming tainted water. Lead researcher Vladislav Yakovlev says:
“This is a huge improvement in terms of sensitivity, and our technique has tremendous potential for analysis of global drinking water supplies, particularly in developing nations and following natural disasters, where sophisticated laboratory equipment may not be available.”