Heriot-Watt researcher grows ’smart’ rocks

3 million Euros funding for rocks that talk back!

Mercedes Maroto-Valer of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University has been awarded a €3 million EU Research council ‘advanced award for ‘frontier research.’ Maroto-Valer’s team is to ‘grow’ smart rocks that will ‘talk about what actually goes on deep underground.’ The plan is to 3D print porous rocks with incorporated micro sensors. The rocky avatars will then be subjected to reservoir conditions and the sensors will chatter away telling the researchers how they are doing.

According to Maroto-Valer, ‘Work over the years has given us some idea about how liquids and gases move through porous rocks at a large scale, but we still don’t understand how the process works at the pore scale and how this differs according to rock type.’

Maroto-Valer told Oil IT Journal, ‘We are planning to use tools, including virtual reality to deal with the complexity of big data related to the porous networks, both to manufacture the replicas as well as for the subsequent treatment and data analysis.’

The research promises advances in the security of water, food and energy supplies, the efficient extraction of oil and gas and the potential for storing captured CO2. Funding comes as grant agreement N° 695070 from the EU Research council’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. At least it did before Brexit. Now all bets are off!

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