Detection of liquids on surfaces


Injuries caused by slips and falls, due to wet surfaces, account for a large proportion of common injuries. For example, the Health and Safety Executive estimate that 35% of major injuries in the food and drinks industries are caused by slipping on a wet surface. Typically, warnings relating to spilt liquids take the form of signage placed in the immediate vicinity.

However, this relies on the availability of appropriate signage and on the spillage being noticed before an accident occurs. Spilt liquid is not always readily visible, particularly in the case of transparent liquids, and the current solution is unable to alleviate this risk.

Oxford researchers have developed a method for detecting the presence of liquid on a surface and automatically displaying a warning, removing the requirement for human intervention. This invention could be applied to any situation where the presence of spilt or collected liquid could create a hazard.


Hazardous wet surfaces

Leaks, spills and even bad weather can result in accumulation of liquids on surfaces, representing a significant slip hazard. This is particularly concerning in public areas, such as hospital corridors, supermarkets or railway platforms. Attempts to alleviate this hazard typically involve reactive measures, such as the placement of a warning sign in the immediate area. These slip hazards can remain undetected for long periods of time.

Undetected spillage of flammable liquids, for example on petrol station forecourts, is particularly hazardous. Such an occurrence would require immediate clean up, however, no simple method currently exists to immediately detect such dangerous spillages.

The big reveal

Oxford researchers have developed a warning signage system (in the form of floor graphics/stickers) with a unique coating composition. The signs can easily be applied to floors, doorways, around refrigeration units that risk developing a leak or any other high-risk area.

Upon contact with any liquid, the sign changes from an inconspicuous cream white colour to reveal a completely customisable message, high contrast (typically black and yellow) warning message.

The stickers can be manufactured using conventional printing techniques using a mixture of commercially available inks. The technique is fully scalable and can be applied to large areas of the floor or simply small strips to detect leaking plumbing.


Market research conducted by Oxford University Innovation Ltd. has gathered feedback from a large supermarket chain who have expressed an interest in our solution to detect leaks from refrigeration units.

A UK based insurance provider who worked with the supermarket chain felt our system could be useful to reduce slips and trips if the capacity was available to produce the product at scale.

Oxford University Innovation is seeking companies with an interest in licensing this technology to produce this product on a large scale and distribute the product to end users. The invention is the subject of a UK priority patent application with scope for international coverage.

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