Sensing Battery Problems with Glass 'Soda Straws'

Glass tubes could be used to sense chemical composition of everything from the sulfuric acid in a car battery to hazardous waste.

Published: 24-Jan-2005

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There you are, tapping your fingers on the cold steering wheel as your windows cloud over from your breath. How could you have known your car battery was that low?

Sending weak beams of light through inexpensive glass tubes that resemble soda straws, Sandia National Laboratories researcher Jonathan Weiss --  dubbed by some the “light wizard” --  can inexpensively solve problems ranging from the migration of waste through a landfill to detecting when an automobile battery soon will be too weak to start a car.

Similar sensors also could tell oil field operators when to stop pumping oil from their tanks before the pumps pick up water that accompanies oil from the ground.

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