Iverson is an Iowa State University professor of geological and atmospheric sciences. He's worked for three years on his big new machine, which is over nine feet tall, that he calls a glacier sliding simulator.
At the center of the machine is a ring of ice about eight inches thick and about three feet across. Below the ice is a hydraulic press that can put as much as 170 tons of force on the ice, creating pressures equal to those beneath a glacier 1,300 feet thick. Above are motors that can rotate the ice ring at its centerline at speeds of 100 to 7,000 feet per year.
Either the speed of the ice or the stress dragging it forward can be controlled. Around the ice is circulating fluid - its temperature controlled to 1/100th of a degree Celsius - that keeps the ice at its melting point so it slides on a thin film of water.
As Iverson starts running experiments with the simulator this month, he'll be looking for data that help explain glacier movement.
"For a particular stress, which depends on a glacier's size and shape, we'd like to know how fast a glacier will slide," Iverson said.
Glacier sliding is something that matters far from the ice fields. As the climate warms, Iverson said glaciers slide faster. When they hit coasts, they dump ice into the ocean. And when those icebergs melt they contribute to rising sea levels.
But there's a lot about the process researchers still don't know.
"We can't predict how fast glaciers slide - even to a factor of 10," Iverson said. "We don't know enough about how they slide to do that."
And so Iverson came up with the idea of a glacier in a freezer that allows him to isolate effects of stress, temperature and melt-water on speeds of glacier sliding.
The project is supported by a $529,922 grant from the National Science Foundation. While Iverson had a rough design for the simulator, he said a team of three engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory - Terry Herrman, Dan Jones and Jerry Musselman - improved the design and turned it into a working machine.
Iverson said the machine won't simulate everything about glacier sliding.
"The fact is we can't simulate the real process," he said. "We can only simulate key elements of the process. The purpose of these experiments will be to idealize how the system works and thereby learn fundamentals of the sliding process that can't be learned in the field because of the complexity there."
Iverson, who also does field studies at glaciers in Sweden and Norway, said glaciology needs work on the ground and in the lab. But it's been decades since anybody has attempted the kind of laboratory simulations he'll be doing.
"There hasn't been a device to do this," Iverson said. "And so there haven't been any experiments."
To change that, Iverson is pulling on a coat, hat and gloves and working in his lab's freezer. He has ice rings to build. Equipment to calibrate. And experiments to run.
Neal Iverson | EurekAlert!
NASA examines newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D
26.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle
25.04.2017 | Rice University
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy