Mathematical research at Delft University of Technology is making it easier to look for oil. Yogi Ahmad Erlangga, who receives his doctorate on Thursday 22 December, has developed a method of calculation which enables computers to solve a crucial equation much faster. In the past, this stumped oil company computers.
Funded by Shell and SenterNovem, Erlanggas research is pure mathematics. It all centres on the so-called Helmholtz equation. Solving this is important in interpreting the acoustic measurements taken when prospecting for oil. Sound waves are transmitted into the ground and their reflections recorded as they return to the earths surface. Analysis of this data enables specialists to locate oil deposits.
In the past, these measurements have been taken two-dimensionally. Effectively, the earth was surveyed as a series of flat layers. But the oil companies would rather use a faster method involving three-dimensional blocks. Until recently, though, their computers were not powerful enough to do that. Solving the Helmholtz equation requires huge arithmetical capacity.
Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
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