Geoscience research gets a 3D boost
Hawker Richardson recently installed a GE Nanotom M micro-CT scanner in the laboratory of Professor Ralf Haese and Dr Jay Black, where it will support their research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The 3D inspection and visualisation instrument has a resolution in the submicrometre scale, enabling a wide range of applications in the areas of geosciences and material sciences.
Based in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Haese and Black use the micro-CT scanner as a tool to visualise and extract 3D data from sediment cores to reveal the distribution and connectivity of grains and voids. Such data is then used to identify preferential pathways for water and CO2 and to determine how much CO2 can be stored in the pore space.
The challenge was that the researchers needed an inspection system that supplies good-quality imagery, is reliable, is easy to use and comes with a supplier providing the proper training, service and technical support and good advice on data processing software and computer hardware requirements. After much research and a competitive tender, the scientists decided to go with the GE Phoenix Nanotom X-ray machine and Hawker Richardson as a supplier.
“The service level at Hawker Richardson was exceptional — we’d say nine out of 10,” said Haese.
“The scheduling and timing of the GE Phoenix Nanotom X-ray machine was spot on. The technical support was exceptional, along with the entire team who planned and facilitated installing the 1.5-tonne machine up to the fourth floor of our building via a crane.”
Comprehensive training was provided by Hawker Richardson, with the company flying out Gerhard Zacher, a geophysics applications engineer for GE in Germany. Zacher demonstrated how to use the machine to its full capacity and extract the imagery and data necessary for the client’s needs.
“The training given from Gerhard was great!” said Haese. “Extremely straightforward, clear and he covered everything we needed within the training. No issues at all.”
The micro-CT scanner is part of the university’s Trace Analysis for Chemical, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TrACEES) Platform, with the aim to share the facility with researchers within and outside of the university. A range of samples has already been analysed after just a few months, including diamonds, stalagmites (rocks forming in caves), marine polychaetes (a type of worm) and reservoir rocks (sandstones).
“The imagery is incredible,” said Haese. “It’s the first time we’ve used a micro-CT scanner in this context, but it has been really impressive and has allowed us to see samples literally in 3D at the micrometre scale.
“We scanned a sandstone sample with 5 mm diameter in the GE Phoenix Nanotom and could immediately see mineral grains and the pore network, and identify locations of dense minerals — the machine allows us to look at the samples closely enough to see how the voids are connected within the rock. We can then look at 3D rendering of the rock pore space.”
The machine currently gets used about twice a week, and the five-year service contract and three-year warranty ensures the GE Phoenix Nanotom M will be supported for a long time. When asked whether he would recommend the GE Phoenix Nanotom M and Hawker Richardson to other universities, Haese’s reply was, “Absolutely.”
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