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Deep Earth Research Advances Several Kilometers

Muon Tomography Detector Advances Deep Earth Research

Journey to the center of the earth by Jules Verne is still one of the greatest works of fiction, but it soon might be possible for people to see that far into the earth even if we can’t visit there thanks to Russian scientists. Researchers from three major Russian institutes have invented a device which will allow users to see several kilometers into the earth.

The tests allowed scientists to ‘see’ contours of underground structures

According to Space Daily, scientists recently made a breakthrough in the field of muon tomography, “creating tracking devices which allow geologists to ‘see through’ objects up to thousands of meters in diameter below the earth’s surface.”

Scientists from Russia’s National University of Science and Technology, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics, and Moscow State University’s Institute of Nuclear Physics joined their research efforts to build a special tracking device which will allow geologists to create detailed and accurate 3D maps of what’s below the earth’s surface.

The trackers use muon tomography which is a “technique using cosmic ray-generated muon particles, to radiograph underground objects and geological structures.”

“After deciphering the detector’s readings, it is possible to compile a three-dimensional picture of a variety of objects, from a meter-sized cavity in the soil…to a map of the caves in a mountain,” MISiS Rector Alevtina Chernikova told RIA Novosti.

Cutaway views of the layers of the earth's core

Meanwhile, Professor Polukhina said the new technology could be used for many different types of research.

“It is possible to non-invasively appraise a volcano’s vent, the reactor of a nuclear power plant, or a mountain glacier. [The technology can be used] to find new underground sources of natural gas, to catch a fire rising in a mountain used for coal mining long before it burns out from the inside, to predict the eruption of a volcano, or prevent the disastrous consequences of sinkholes in mines or city streets,” the scientist said.

The new muon tracking technology was tested in a mine belonging to the Geological Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Obninsk, western Russia, and the findings proved successful.

The tests allowed scientists to ‘see’ contours of underground structures and the technology is now being rolled out on a larger scale. Detectors are being mass produced by Slavich Company, a Yaroslav-based agency specializing in technical photographic materials.

“The good thing about our emulsion-based detectors is that they are easy to operate, do not require electricity, and in the case of geological prospecting, allow us to manage a much smaller number of underground holes, all while accurately distinguishing objects between one meter and one kilometer across with a high degree of accuracy,” Professor Polukhina said.

Specialists are now working on the technology to improve its capabilities and to help scientists learn more about the world we live in and effectively what is under our feet. This bold idea could help us learn more about our planet, or even discover a new one lurking underneath.

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