EDINBURGH, UK – Heriot-Watt University has secured a €3-million ($3.35-million) grant from the European Research Council to pursue frontier geological research.
A team led by Professor Merceded Maroto-Valer will use the fund to cultivate “smart rocks” that can “talk” to them about the process of liquids and gases traveling through porous rocks in the subsurface.
The team plan to 3D print their own porous rocks with incorporated micro sensors.
Professor Maroto-Valer said: “While extensive work over the years has given us some idea about how liquids and gases move through porous rocks at a large scale, we haven’t been able to understand how the process works at the very small pore scale, and how that process can differ between different types of porous rocks...
“By 3D printing our own core samples we can decide exactly what sort of rock we wish to study, and implanted micro-sensors will be able to tell us directly, in real-time, what is going on as gases and liquids pass through them.
“This fundamental knowledge at such a tiny scale will feed hugely into our understanding of such processes at the large scale and enable us to maximize the success of industries from oil extraction to water safety and the storage of captured CO2.”