Urban prospecting detector finds oil in the city


Artist and electronics hound Jon Cohrs made this tool for urban prospecting. He writes:

The project, called the Urban Prospector, is basically a modified metal detector outfitted with a combustible gas sensor that can be built for under 100 dollars. By scanning the surface of your neighborhood, you will be able to determine pockets of oil and other toxins. Until recently, oil prospecting has been a field left to the professionals because it requires sophisticated tools for detection. But in much the same way gold prospecting empowered people to find small nuggets of profit, urban prospectors now have the potential to find small nuggets of oil near oil spills, abandoned gas stations, and industrial sites. Given the current high cost of oil, these urban spills or potential gold mines are waiting to be tapped.

Check out his Instructable on converting an old metal detector to sense combustible gas.

16 thoughts on “Urban prospecting detector finds oil in the city

  1. This seems completely backwards to me. Aren’t you going to be finding sources of pollution which are going to require energy INPUT to clean up rather than sources of petroleum that could provide useful amounts of energy OUTPUT?

    Not to say that finding these polluted areas is a bad thing. But as an energy source? Don’t think so.

  2.’s severely twisted.

    I used to work at a place that USED to be a local gas station until the EPA discovered they’d been leaking fuel into the ground. Apparently enough was there at one time that if it ignited, the entire city block would explode. The EPA kept a monitoring and “vapor recovery” station(the pizza joint I worked at had to build their building around it) there almost 20 years after the gas station closed but the recovery was not of usable gasoline, nor could it ever be.

    Best thing you could do with this device is make sure that the above situation doesn’t happen again and report any sites to the EPA(or your equivalent govt agency).

  3. Sweet light crude sells for 75USD/barrel, how is finding used motor oil spills, if they are even detectable by the sensor, going to be a “gold mine” of any sort? So let me get this straight, you took a working TIF8800 and a working metal detector and screwed them together thereby lowering the value of the final product? This is definitely a new low…

  4. This is art disguised as hacking, guys. It’s not intended to be a practical device, but rather a commentary on the value we place on our precious hydrocarbons.

  5. of course it is. but it’s still stupid.

    it doesn’t make you think, it’s not provocative, it’s not even a very good commentary piece.

    now, if it were a dialysis machine with blood coming out and oil going in…

  6. This is art, hacking and satire.

    He’s “prospecting” for oil in a neighborhood that is considered to be one of the largest environmental catastrophes in the nation.

    Whether or not you think its “provocative” or a “good commentary piece” it’s still providing a wonderfully useful service by identifying underlying pollution in the environment.

    Pumping oil into your veins is utterly useless and just plain unimaginative… In short, it would provide no useful service, and once the initial shock passes, promote no thought other than, “I can’t believe someone is stupid enough to do that to themselves for such a boring work of art.”

    Somehow, I feel that this work is much more engaging, mature and socially responsible than what your propose (not to mention this one was actually executed).

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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