Doctors pretending to be Doctors

Authored by Quinn Wenning.

From the title, one might expect this article to be about fraudulent doctors posing as the real thing in order to steal money from unsuspecting patients. No, this isn’t ETH’s version of Catch Me If You Can. In this instance, it’s “rock doctors” working with medical doctors to image fracture displacement and fluid flow in … kidney stones? … No, if you’re on this site you should have guessed it … in rocks. More specifically, shales, which are seen as potential caprocks for CO2 storage and oil/gas reservoirs, as well as host formations for long-term storage of nuclear waste.

Drs. Claudio Madonna and Quinn Wenning recently took part in an excursion to Imperial College London to meet up with Dr. Ronny Pini’s team where they are investigating rock fracture properties using medical computerized tomography (CT). The ETH team brought along their core holder and samples from the Opalinus shale and went to work in the CT imaging lab at Imperial.  The researchers plan to address questions related to how 3D fracture aperture patterns change under in-situ conditions while undergoing confined shear displacement. They are looking at how wet and dry conditions change the shale properties and how the swelling properties of the clays will enhance sealing of the fracture.

Testing at Imperial College London.

Claudio and Ronny inspecting the results as Quinn shears the shale at Imperial College London.

During their time at Imperial, the researchers transferred their equipment to Invicro where they worked with medical doctors to attempt to image dynamic fluid flow through the fracture using positron emission tomography (PET). As the medical doctors helped in the imaging lab, they playfully called us the “rock docs” and were glad it was ‘rock day’ and a welcome change from their typical patient-related imaging.

In hospitals, it’s usually the patients who are the frightened ones. Not on rock day. If you’re looking to scare some doctors, just mention that the core holder pressure is rated up to 30 MPa, and say you’re going to put it inside their million dollar CT/PET machine. That’ll get the medical doctor’s blood pressure up. They’ll soon calm down after assuring them that you only wish to go up to a fraction of the max.

Now that our blood pressures are all at reasonable levels, we rock docs are working on processing the data back at ETH. More to come when the results are analyzed and ready to be presented. That’s all for now on our little PET project.

Inside CT-PET machine

A million dollar CT-PET machine with a core holder held in place by two dollar duct tape.

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