Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Geophysicist develops method for finding underground contaminants


When a property is suspected of having contaminated soil or groundwater, it is usually a lengthy and costly process to confirm the presence of pollutants and to delineate the extent of the contamination. Soon that process may be simplified considerably.

University of Rhode Island geophysicist Reinhard Frohlich, an associate professor of geosciences, has devised a cost-effective, new method for finding underground contaminants that will reduce drilling and digging beneath the surface. By inserting two metal spikes in the ground at various distances and connecting them to an electric current, Frohlich can measure the voltage between the spikes and determine the resistivity of the soil, which tells him if the soil is polluted.

"My initial objective was to do an experiment at the surface that would explain what was going on beneath the surface," said Frohlich, whose research was funded by a $55,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Resistivity measurements, which calculate a material’s opposition to the flow of electric current, are widely used to track contaminated salts dissolved in groundwater because they are good conductors of electricity. But Frohlich’s experiments focused on finding organic compounds like toluene, benzene, xylene, ethylbenzene, phenol and other cancer-causing substances that do not conduct electricity.

"Our system seems to work very well on all organic compounds. Resistivity increases significantly in areas where the aquifer is polluted compared to clean areas," he said. "We should be able to use this as the first step in the remediation process because it’s quicker and allows us to drill fewer borings into the aquifer." Frohlich tested his system at the Picillo Pig Farm in West Coventry, a Superfund site where illegal dumping of chemical waste was discovered following an explosion in 1978. The R.I. Department of Environmental Management and the EPA have been monitoring and cleaning the site for more than 20 years.

"The Picillo Farm is a suitable site for our experiments because the results can be compared with the many monitoring wells and other analyses that have been conducted there over the years," Frohlich said. In addition to field tests at the Picillo Farm, Frohlich conducted controlled laboratory tests comparing clean soil with contaminated soil of known composition.

His study will next attempt to quantify the amount of contaminants at a given location. "It’s one thing to identify a clean or contaminated site, but we want to also get a quantitative value for the contaminants," said Frohlich. "That’s something that the EPA would really like to be able to do."

Todd McLeish | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>