The GeoX Suite: Environmental cells for NERC research using in situ imaging

Project: Equipment only

Project Details


Improving our understanding the natural world; how it has evolved, how it continues to evolve, and how it responds to human impacts and climate change are the main goals of all earth and environmental researchers. This work allows improvements in global stewardship, hazard mitigation, and more sustainable resource management. In recent years the development of very powerful x-ray imaging techniques allows us to see inside our samples without destroying them; meaning we understand the internal structures of rocks, soils, ice, plants, animals and man-made materials better than ever before.

However, the most cutting edge systems allow us to collect images in just fractions of a second and allow us to put experimental equipment inside the imaging equipment. This means that with the right experimental equipment we could improve our understanding of the processes themselves: by watching them happen. Imaging our geological samples under the relevant geological conditions could help us answer some of the outstanding challenges in earth and environmental research: working at high temperatures we could capture how bubbles drive volcanic eruptions; using pressurised fluid cells we could look at how corals adapt to changing ocean conditions; by imaging while we compress rocks under very high loads we could improve our understanding of fracture propagation during earthquakes; by working at low temperatures we could identify the processes controlling glacier movement or greenhouse gas release from melting permafrost, by imaging soil during wetting and drying we can understand how structure controls nutrient supply and drought resistance in plants; and if we combine pressure and temperature and deformation we can investigate how best to identify, extract and manage critical subsurface resources such as oil, gas, water, metals, minerals, and heat.

The GeoX suite of experimental apparatus does just that; allowing earth and environmental researchers to gain new insight and understanding into how the planet works. The equipment is also suitable for other applications.

Furnaces: single and dual zone clam-shell style furnaces capable of heating samples from room temperature to 1250C during x-ray imaging. Furnaces can be mounted on some deformation cells.

Uniaxial Deformation: 2 x 5kN uniaxial tension-compression deformation cells which allow deformation while imaging, at temperature (-20C to 180C) and/or under fluid saturated conditions

Triaxial deformation: A small volume triaxial cell capable of taking geological samples to reservoir pressures and temperatures

Flow: A set of pumps and associated cell components to allow in situ observation of flow in porous media. Can be coupled to thermal control and load cells.
Short titleThe GeoX Suite
Effective start/end date1/01/21 → …