Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Uncovering mysteries beneath the Earth’s surface

19.11.2003


Back in the old days, when doctors looked for tumors, exploratory surgery was the only option. Today they use CAT scans, x-rays, ultrasound, and other non-intrusive methods for checking out what lies beneath the skin’s surface. But how do we determine what is beneath the Earth’s surface? Invasive surgery on the Earth is just as dated as doctors’ old methods of finding tumors, if you ask Eric Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University. If we humans can rely on CAT scans to form three-dimensional computer models of our insides, surely “CAT scans for the Earth" can be valuable in finding contaminants such as nuclear waste, to replace drilling and other harmful methods. Miller and his team, with funding from the Department of Energy, are busily toiling away on this very kind of environmental remediation and monitoring.





For much of the last half of the last century, waste was disposed of in less-than-careful ways. This waste was generated from the buildup of the country’s nuclear stockpile. In many locations, there’s a question about just what is in the earth and how it’s moving – a question that can be answered by digging up large tracks of land. But Miller says that not only is digging not economically feasible, it can also be dangerous if contaminants are exposed and not treated properly.

“One of the legacies of the Cold War is the proliferation of buried chemical and radioactive waste on the grounds of many Department of Energy labs,” says Miller. “While people know roughly where material is buried, it is often the case that detailed records are not available. Working with the DOE National Lab in Idaho, we have been exploring processing methods designed to develop a ‘map’ of the subsurface which is required before excavation can begin.”


CAT scans of the Earth involve imaging of the planet’s internal structure, which is useful for two reasons. First, the images can be used to “see” where the contaminants are, how they are moving, and how successful the treatment of the contaminants is. Second, images can help determine the details of the sedimentary structure of the Earth in regions where contaminants are located. Imaging can then be used to develop maps so we can see or predict where the contaminants may flow in the future.

With medical imaging, doctors are free to place the patient in a machine that collects data from all around him or her, but with the Earth, experts are constrained in terms of where data can be collect data from: the surface and boreholes. This means that the data makes high quality image formation much more difficult. Miller and his team are developing new methods to improve the resolution of the resulting images. The work is conducted in close collaboration with geophysicists and hydrologists from the Department of Energy, who can use Miller’s information to analyze the "fate and transport" of the contaminants flowing through the earth.

Located in the heart of Boston, Northeastern University is a private institution recognized for its expert faculty, first-rate academic and research facilities and flagship co-op program. The co-op program, which combines classroom learning with real-world experience, has been cited for excellence for two years running by U.S. News & World Report. Recently named a top college in the northeast by the Princeton Review, Northeastern’s career services was awarded top honors by Kaplan Newsweek’s “Unofficial Insiders Guide to the 320 Most Interesting Colleges and Universities,” 2003 edition. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.

Emily Donahue | Northeastern University
Further information:
http://www.nupr.neu.edu/11-03/nukes.html
http://www.northeastern.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Monitoring lava lake levels in Congo volcano
16.05.2018 | Seismological Society of America

nachricht Ice stream draining Greenland Ice Sheet sensitive to changes over past 45,000 years
14.05.2018 | Oregon State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>