New mapping technology to discover Earth’s resources

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For years, scientists have been trying to understand the structure of the Earth. One of these scientists is Dr. Juan Carlos Afonso (ITC), a geophysicist at the University of Twente. He recently developed a new method for analyzing the Earth’s continental crust, which lays the groundwork for forecasting geothermal energy sources, but also other critical resources for the Earth and other planets. He published his research in a scientific journal Science of nature.

To minimize the impact of natural hazards and support the transition to green energy technologies, it is essential to understand how the continental lithosphere – the outer part of the Earth – works and to predict the location of geothermal energy and mineral resources. Typically, terrestrial scientists examine one aspect of the earth’s crust at a time using specific data sets. But both the chemical structure of the earth’s crust and small differences in temperature inform geologists about the origin and evolution of the planet and the location of resources under our feet. However, combining multiple data sets for this purpose remains a major challenge.

In his study, Afonso was able to formally combine multiple satellite datasets with terrestrial datasets to see farther into Earth than was possible before. “It’s a whole new way to ‘see’ what’s underneath,” Afonso said. Previously, the only reliable approach to in-depth exploration of resources was the analysis of rock samples brought to the surface by volcanoes (known as “xenoliths”). “When you’re addicted to volcanoes, you can imagine that such samples are hard to find. “They are scattered in space and time and there is still a lot of uncertainty,” Afonso said.

The research team focuses on Central and South Africa. The Kalahari, Tanzania and Congo cratons – ancient and stable parts of the two uppermost layers of the Earth – have proved useful in the region. “Central and South Africa is a natural laboratory that helps us answer fundamental questions about the formation of cratons,” says Afonso, “and there are many data sets of these necessary xenoliths that have helped us prove our method.”

“This study showed that our method of combining earth and satellite datasets works. “Now we can extend the study to regions where xenoliths are not available,” said Afonso. According to researchers, this approach contributes to the development of next-generation planetary models and supports the development of cleaner technologies. It lays the groundwork for innovative frameworks for exploring resources for the Earth, but also for other terrestrial planets. “Maybe Mars and / or the Moon could be next.”



More info:
Juan S. Afonso et al., Thermochemical structure and evolution of the craton lithosphere in Central and South Africa, Science of nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41561-022-00929-y

Provided by the University of Twente

Quote: New Mapping Technology for Discovering Earth’s Resources (2022, June 3), retrieved on June 3, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-technology-earth-resources.html

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