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Title: Fluorescent Particle Tracers for Surface Hydrology
Tutor: Grimaldi, Salvatore
Porfiri, Maurizio
Issue Date: 6-May-2014
Abstract: Surface water processes control downstream runoff phenomena, waste and pollutant diffusion, erosion mechanics, and sediment transport. However, current observational methodologies do not allow for the identification and kinematic characterization of the physical processes contributing to catchment dynamics. Traditional methodologies are not capable to cope with extreme in-situ conditions, including practical logistic challenges as well as inherent flow complexity. In addition, available observational techniques are non-exhaustive for describing multiscale hydrological processes. This research addresses the need for novel observations of the hydrological community by developing pioneer flow characterization approaches that rely on the mutual integration of traditional tracing techniques and state-of-the-art image-based sensing procedures. These novel methodologies enable the in-situ direct observation of surface water processes through remote and unsupervised procedures, thus paving the way to the development of distributed networks of sensing platforms for catchment-scale environmental sensing. More specifically, the proposed flow characterization methodology is a low-cost measurement system that can be applied to a variety of real-world settings spanning from few centimeters rills in natural catchments to riverine ecosystems. The technique is based on the use of in-house synthesized environmentally-friendly fluorescent particle tracers through digital cameras for direct flow measurement and travel time estimations. Automated image analysis-based procedures are developed for real-time flow characterization based on image manipulation, template-based correlation, particle image velocimetry, and dimensionality reduction methodologies. The feasibility of the approach is assessed through laboratory-designed experiments, where the accuracy of the methodology is investigated with respect to well-established flow visualization techniques. Further, the transition of the proposed flow characterization approach to natural settings is studied through paradigmatic observations of natural stream flows in small scale channel and riverine settings and overland flows in hillslope environments. The integration of the proposed flow sensing system in a stand-alone, remote, and mobile platform is explored through the design, development, and testing of a miniature aerial vehicle for environmental monitoring through video acquisition and processing.

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