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 NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system
21.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Scientists shed light on carbon's descent into the deep Earth
19.07.2017 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>