Renewable energy sources could provide a clean alternative to conventional fuels whilst still meeting the requirements needed to maintain our current way of living. One downside however is that depending on the source, their output can be greatest when demand is at its lowest and vice versa; as is the case for solar and wind power. RESOURCE (Renewable Energy StOrage in UndeRground CavErns) seeks to use excavations in salt as a rechargeable battery for renewable energy. With access to extensive tunnels of salt, studies are underway at Boulby to investigate storing energy by way of compressed gases within specially excavated salt caverns.
Carbon dating is a method of estimating the age of a material by comparing the quanities of radioactive carbon-14 to the more stable form of carbon-12. The age is inferred by using this ratio in combination with the half life, the time it takes for half an amount of radioactive material to decay away. Recent studies have suggested the current measured value for the half life of carbon-14 is slightly incorrect (by several decades), meaning the estimates on the ages of many items, and thus our understanding of parts of history, may be incorrect. C14 aims to improve the accuracy of the carbon-14 half life value to allow for more precise carbon dating measurements, as well as other applications.
Despite being situated more than one kilometre below the surface and shielded from the majority of naturally occurring background radiation, some highly penetrating particles still manage to reach the lab. In particular, muons, heavier forms of electrons, are one such kind of penetrative particle, and although their flux is reduced by a factor one thousand, the lab still experiences tens of particles per day. These muons can potentially be used to produce an ‘image’ of the structures above. The technique, ‘Muon Tomography’, is similar to CT scanning in medical imaging, but as muons are more penetrating than X-rays much larger and deeper structures can be imaged. This technique can in turn be used in carbon capture and storage efforts as a way to monitor existing captured liquid carbon dioxide in depleted oil wells.
This same technology is now being applied to map sub surface structures which are typically difficult to reach. For more information, visit Geoptic.