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 Iowa State GeoFabLab prints 3-D rocks, fossils; advances geoscience research, education

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Date posted: 16/09/2014

Franek Hasiuk grabbed a little red ball and said it’s not every day you pick up Mars.

But there it was, a Mars model about the size of a golf ball and just detailed enough to show Olympus Mons, a Martian volcano nearly 14 miles high and three times the height of Mt. Everest.

“You get a sense of how high it sticks up from the rest of the planet,” said Hasiuk, an Iowa State University assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and David Morehouse Faculty Fellow. “It’s just spectacular.”

That little globe is just one product of Hasiuk’s Geological Fabrication Laboratory (or GeoFabLab), a narrow corner room in the basement of Iowa State’s Science Hall. The lab specializes in 3-D scanning and printing – as it says on the lab website, it’s all about “making things geological!”

Hasiuk, who came to Iowa State two years ago from the oil and gas industry, said a research and teaching goal has been to find “projects that students could work on that would make them interesting to industry – and employable.”

When he worked in industry, Hasiuk used 2-D CT scans to study the pores within limestone reservoir rocks. It’s a major industry challenge to understand fluid flow through the pore networks of rocks so oil can be extracted from the smallest pores.

When Hasiuk arrived on campus, he found researcher Joseph Gray and the CT tools at the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation. That led to 3-D scans and then 3-D prints of rock porosity.

“We’re taking really small holes in rock and then printing them at magnification,” Hasiuk said. “We’re not getting perfect photocopying yet, but we’re getting there.”

With better scans, data management and 3-D prints, “We can make models of pore networks and see how fluids flow through them,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll get to the point of making predictions and increasing the accuracy of predictions. What geology does for the economy is reduce uncertainty when you need to get something from underground – like oil and gas.”

Hasiuk said the oil and gas industry is showing significant interest in the research project.

See the full Story via external site: www.news.iastate.edu

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