Calculating tsunami risk for the US East Coast

The greatest threat of a tsunami for the U.S. east coast from a nearby offshore earthquake stretches from the coast of New England to New Jersey, according to John Ebel of Boston College, who presented his findings today at the Seismological Society of America 2013 Annual Meeting.

The potential for an East Coast tsunami has come under greater scrutiny after a 2012 earthquake swarm that occurred offshore about 280 kilometers (170 miles) east of Boston. The largest earthquake in the 15-earthquake swarm, most of which occurred on April 12, 2012, was magnitude (M) 4.0.

In 2012 several other earthquakes were detected on the edge of the Atlantic continental shelf of North America, with magnitudes between 2 and 3.5. These quakes occurred off the coast of southern Newfoundland and south of Cape Cod, as well as in the area of the April swarm. All of these areas have experienced other earthquake activity in the past few decades prior to 2012.

The setting for these earthquakes, at the edge of the continental shelf, is similar to that of the 1929 M7.3 Grand Banks earthquake, which triggered a 10-meter tsunami along southern Newfoundland and left tens of thousands of residents homeless.

Ebel’s preliminary findings suggest the possibility than an earthquake-triggered tsunami could affect the northeast coast of the U.S. The evidence he cites is the similarity in tectonic settings of the U.S. offshore earthquakes and the major Canadian earthquake in 1929. More research is necessary, says Ebel, to develop a more refined hazard assessment of the probability of a strong offshore earthquake along the northeastern U.S. coast.

Calculating tsunami risk for the US East Coast

The greatest threat of a tsunami for the U.S. east coast from a nearby offshore earthquake stretches from the coast of New England to New Jersey, according to John Ebel of Boston College, who presented his findings today at the Seismological Society of America 2013 Annual Meeting.

The potential for an East Coast tsunami has come under greater scrutiny after a 2012 earthquake swarm that occurred offshore about 280 kilometers (170 miles) east of Boston. The largest earthquake in the 15-earthquake swarm, most of which occurred on April 12, 2012, was magnitude (M) 4.0.

In 2012 several other earthquakes were detected on the edge of the Atlantic continental shelf of North America, with magnitudes between 2 and 3.5. These quakes occurred off the coast of southern Newfoundland and south of Cape Cod, as well as in the area of the April swarm. All of these areas have experienced other earthquake activity in the past few decades prior to 2012.

The setting for these earthquakes, at the edge of the continental shelf, is similar to that of the 1929 M7.3 Grand Banks earthquake, which triggered a 10-meter tsunami along southern Newfoundland and left tens of thousands of residents homeless.

Ebel’s preliminary findings suggest the possibility than an earthquake-triggered tsunami could affect the northeast coast of the U.S. The evidence he cites is the similarity in tectonic settings of the U.S. offshore earthquakes and the major Canadian earthquake in 1929. More research is necessary, says Ebel, to develop a more refined hazard assessment of the probability of a strong offshore earthquake along the northeastern U.S. coast.

Measuring the hazards of global aftershock

The entire world becomes an aftershock zone after a massive magnitude (M) 7 or larger earthquake-but what hazard does this pose around the planet? Researchers are working to extend their earthquake risk estimates over a global scale, as they become better at forecasting the impact of aftershocks at a local and regional level.

There is little doubt that surface waves from a large, M≥7 earthquake can distort fault zones and volcanic centers as they pass through the Earth’s crust, and these waves could trigger seismic activity. According to the Tom Parsons, seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, global surveys suggest that there is a significant rate increase in global seismic activity during and in the 45 minutes after a M≥7 quake across all kinds of geologic settings. But it is difficult to find strong evidence that surface waves from these events immediately trigger M>5 earthquakes, and these events may be relatively rare. Nevertheless, seismologists would like to be able to predict the frequency of large triggered quakes in this global aftershock zone and associated hazard.

Studies of hundreds of M≥7 mainshock earthquake effects in 21 different regions around the world has provided some initial insights into how likely a damaging global aftershock might be. Initial results show that remote triggering has occurred at least once in about half of the regions studied during the past 30 years. Larger (M>5) global aftershocks appear to be delayed by several hours as compared with their lower magnitude counterparts. Parsons suggests that local seismic networks can monitor the rate of seismic activity immediately after a global mainshock quake, with the idea that a vigorous uptick in activity could signal a possible large aftershock.

Parsons presented his research at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America, which is an international scientific society devoted to the advancement of seismology and the understanding of earthquakes for the benefit of society. It publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal BSSA – the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America – and the bimonthly Seismological Research Letters, which serves as a general forum for informal communication among seismologists and those interested in seismology and related disciplines.

Measuring the hazards of global aftershock

The entire world becomes an aftershock zone after a massive magnitude (M) 7 or larger earthquake-but what hazard does this pose around the planet? Researchers are working to extend their earthquake risk estimates over a global scale, as they become better at forecasting the impact of aftershocks at a local and regional level.

There is little doubt that surface waves from a large, M≥7 earthquake can distort fault zones and volcanic centers as they pass through the Earth’s crust, and these waves could trigger seismic activity. According to the Tom Parsons, seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, global surveys suggest that there is a significant rate increase in global seismic activity during and in the 45 minutes after a M≥7 quake across all kinds of geologic settings. But it is difficult to find strong evidence that surface waves from these events immediately trigger M>5 earthquakes, and these events may be relatively rare. Nevertheless, seismologists would like to be able to predict the frequency of large triggered quakes in this global aftershock zone and associated hazard.

Studies of hundreds of M≥7 mainshock earthquake effects in 21 different regions around the world has provided some initial insights into how likely a damaging global aftershock might be. Initial results show that remote triggering has occurred at least once in about half of the regions studied during the past 30 years. Larger (M>5) global aftershocks appear to be delayed by several hours as compared with their lower magnitude counterparts. Parsons suggests that local seismic networks can monitor the rate of seismic activity immediately after a global mainshock quake, with the idea that a vigorous uptick in activity could signal a possible large aftershock.

Parsons presented his research at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America, which is an international scientific society devoted to the advancement of seismology and the understanding of earthquakes for the benefit of society. It publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal BSSA – the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America – and the bimonthly Seismological Research Letters, which serves as a general forum for informal communication among seismologists and those interested in seismology and related disciplines.

Geochemical method finds links between terrestrial climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide

<IMG SRC="/Images/583714783.jpg" WIDTH="350" HEIGHT="237" BORDER="0" ALT="Michael Hren of the University of Connecticut and his coauthors examined these carbonate shells of the freshwater gastropod Viviparus lentus from the Hampshire Basin, United Kingdom. They used a clumped-isotope thermometer technique to determine the concentration of bonded heavy oxygen and carbon isotopes in these shells, which gives a picture of land temperatures during the Eocence-Oligocene transition, about 34 million years ago. Terrestrial temperatures were determined to be closely linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide. – Photo courtesy Michael Hren.”>
Michael Hren of the University of Connecticut and his coauthors examined these carbonate shells of the freshwater gastropod Viviparus lentus from the Hampshire Basin, United Kingdom. They used a clumped-isotope thermometer technique to determine the concentration of bonded heavy oxygen and carbon isotopes in these shells, which gives a picture of land temperatures during the Eocence-Oligocene transition, about 34 million years ago. Terrestrial temperatures were determined to be closely linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide. – Photo courtesy Michael Hren.

Nearly thirty-four million years ago, the Earth underwent a transformation from a warm and high-carbon dioxide “greenhouse” state to a lower-CO2, variable climate of the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted, and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees.

But studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 degrees and large changes in seasonality.

Now, a group of American and British scientists have used a new chemical technique to measure the change in terrestrial temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Their results suggest a drop of as much as 10 degrees for fresh water during the warm season and 6 degrees for the atmosphere in the North Atlantic, giving further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth’s surface temperature are inextricably linked.

“One of the key principles of geology is that the past is the key to the present: records of past climate inform us of how the Earth system functions,” says Michael Hren, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Geosciences at the University of Connecticut and the study’s lead author. “By understanding past climate transitions, we can better understand the present and predict impacts for the future.”

The transition between the Late Eocene and the Oligocene epochs (between 34-33.5 million years ago) was triggered in part, the authors write in their April 22 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by changes in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 that enabled ice to build up on the Antarctic continent.

Ice-sheet growth, coupled with favorable changes in the Earth’s orbit, pushed the planet past a climatic tipping point and led to both the rapid buildup of a permanent ice sheet in the Antarctic and much larger changes in global climate, says Hren.

But much of what is known about this time period’s climate comes from cores drilled deep in the ocean, Hren says. There, organic and inorganic remains of ancient marine creatures retain chemical signatures of ocean temperatures when they were alive.

Now, Hren and his colleagues have used a recently developed “clumped isotope thermometer” to examine terrestrial fossil shells from this time period. The team collected fossilized snails from the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, and looked for not just the kind and number of carbon and oxygen isotopes present, but how they were bound together.

The abundance of bonds containing heavy isotopes of both oxygen and carbon are temperature-dependent, so they can give a reliable picture of the terrestrial climate.

“The unique thing here is that we’re using isotopologues to measure the temperature that these snails experienced, and relating that to the climate during this interval of declining CO2,” Hren says.

What makes their results so important, says Hren, is that it’s further evidence that CO2 is linked not only to climate by way of the vast oceans and their temperature, but by terrestrial temperatures, too.

“It gives further evidence of the close links between atmospheric CO2 and temperature, but also shows how heterogeneous this climate change may be on land,” he adds.

Studies have shown that before this drastic cooling event, Earth’s atmosphere contained 1000 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 or more, and by the end of the transition, it was likely lower than 600-700 ppm. Some predictions, notes Hren, suggest that Earth’s current CO2 concentrations, currently at close to 400 ppm and climbing, could increase to nearly 1000 ppm in the next 100 years.

If that turns out to be the case, it’s likely that temperature changes on the scale of the Eocene to Oligocene could occur – but in the other direction, toward a much warmer climate that could again fundamentally alter the living things on Earth.

“We are on a path to fundamentally alter our global climate state,” says Hren. “These data definitely give you pause.”

Geochemical method finds links between terrestrial climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide

<IMG SRC="/Images/583714783.jpg" WIDTH="350" HEIGHT="237" BORDER="0" ALT="Michael Hren of the University of Connecticut and his coauthors examined these carbonate shells of the freshwater gastropod Viviparus lentus from the Hampshire Basin, United Kingdom. They used a clumped-isotope thermometer technique to determine the concentration of bonded heavy oxygen and carbon isotopes in these shells, which gives a picture of land temperatures during the Eocence-Oligocene transition, about 34 million years ago. Terrestrial temperatures were determined to be closely linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide. – Photo courtesy Michael Hren.”>
Michael Hren of the University of Connecticut and his coauthors examined these carbonate shells of the freshwater gastropod Viviparus lentus from the Hampshire Basin, United Kingdom. They used a clumped-isotope thermometer technique to determine the concentration of bonded heavy oxygen and carbon isotopes in these shells, which gives a picture of land temperatures during the Eocence-Oligocene transition, about 34 million years ago. Terrestrial temperatures were determined to be closely linked to atmospheric carbon dioxide. – Photo courtesy Michael Hren.

Nearly thirty-four million years ago, the Earth underwent a transformation from a warm and high-carbon dioxide “greenhouse” state to a lower-CO2, variable climate of the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted, and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees.

But studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 degrees and large changes in seasonality.

Now, a group of American and British scientists have used a new chemical technique to measure the change in terrestrial temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Their results suggest a drop of as much as 10 degrees for fresh water during the warm season and 6 degrees for the atmosphere in the North Atlantic, giving further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth’s surface temperature are inextricably linked.

“One of the key principles of geology is that the past is the key to the present: records of past climate inform us of how the Earth system functions,” says Michael Hren, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Geosciences at the University of Connecticut and the study’s lead author. “By understanding past climate transitions, we can better understand the present and predict impacts for the future.”

The transition between the Late Eocene and the Oligocene epochs (between 34-33.5 million years ago) was triggered in part, the authors write in their April 22 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by changes in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 that enabled ice to build up on the Antarctic continent.

Ice-sheet growth, coupled with favorable changes in the Earth’s orbit, pushed the planet past a climatic tipping point and led to both the rapid buildup of a permanent ice sheet in the Antarctic and much larger changes in global climate, says Hren.

But much of what is known about this time period’s climate comes from cores drilled deep in the ocean, Hren says. There, organic and inorganic remains of ancient marine creatures retain chemical signatures of ocean temperatures when they were alive.

Now, Hren and his colleagues have used a recently developed “clumped isotope thermometer” to examine terrestrial fossil shells from this time period. The team collected fossilized snails from the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, and looked for not just the kind and number of carbon and oxygen isotopes present, but how they were bound together.

The abundance of bonds containing heavy isotopes of both oxygen and carbon are temperature-dependent, so they can give a reliable picture of the terrestrial climate.

“The unique thing here is that we’re using isotopologues to measure the temperature that these snails experienced, and relating that to the climate during this interval of declining CO2,” Hren says.

What makes their results so important, says Hren, is that it’s further evidence that CO2 is linked not only to climate by way of the vast oceans and their temperature, but by terrestrial temperatures, too.

“It gives further evidence of the close links between atmospheric CO2 and temperature, but also shows how heterogeneous this climate change may be on land,” he adds.

Studies have shown that before this drastic cooling event, Earth’s atmosphere contained 1000 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 or more, and by the end of the transition, it was likely lower than 600-700 ppm. Some predictions, notes Hren, suggest that Earth’s current CO2 concentrations, currently at close to 400 ppm and climbing, could increase to nearly 1000 ppm in the next 100 years.

If that turns out to be the case, it’s likely that temperature changes on the scale of the Eocene to Oligocene could occur – but in the other direction, toward a much warmer climate that could again fundamentally alter the living things on Earth.

“We are on a path to fundamentally alter our global climate state,” says Hren. “These data definitely give you pause.”

Snail tale: Fossil shells and new geochemical technique provide clues to ancient climate cooling

Using a new laboratory technique to analyze fossil snail shells, scientists have gained insights into an abrupt climate shift that transformed the planet nearly 34 million years ago.

At that time, the Earth switched from a warm and high-carbon dioxide “greenhouse” state to the lower-carbon dioxide, variable climate of the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit).

But studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 C (14.4 F) and large changes in seasonality.

Now, a group of American and British scientists – including two from the University of Michigan – has used a new geochemical technique to analyze heavy isotopes of carbon and oxygen in fossil snail shells. They used the method to measure the change in land temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Their results suggest a drop of as much as 10 C (18 F) for freshwater during the warm season and 6 C (10.8 F) for the atmosphere in the North Atlantic, giving further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth’s surface temperature are inextricably linked.

The team’s findings will be published online April 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author of the paper is Michael Hren, assistant professor of chemistry and geosciences at the University of Connecticut. The U-M co-authors are Nathan Sheldon and Kyger Lohmann of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“One of the key principles of geology is that the past is the key to the present: records of past climate inform us of how the Earth system functions. By understanding past climate transitions, we can better understand the present and predict impacts for the future,” said Hren, a former U-M postdoctoral researcher who worked under Sheldon.

“While our understanding of past changes in the temperature of Earth’s oceans is well established, deciphering the environmental conditions of terrestrial settings has remained elusive. With the application of new analytical techniques, it is now possible to illuminate the paired response of the ocean-land system during episodes of global climate change,” said Lohmann, the director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory, the first U-M facility to use the “clumped-isotope technique.”

The transition between the late Eocene and the Oligocene epochs (between 34 and 33.5 million years ago) was triggered in part by changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide that enabled ice to build up on the Antarctic continent.

Ice-sheet growth, coupled with favorable changes in the Earth’s orbit, pushed the planet past a climatic tipping point and led to both the rapid buildup of a permanent ice sheet in the Antarctic and much larger changes in global climate, the authors wrote.

But much of what is known about this time period’s climate comes from cores drilled deep in the ocean. There, organic and inorganic remains of ancient marine creatures retain chemical signatures of ocean temperatures when they were alive.

Now, the U-M researchers and their colleagues have used the recently developed “clumped-isotope thermometer” technique to examine terrestrial fossil shells from this time period. The team collected fossilized snails from the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, and looked for not just the kind and number of carbon and oxygen isotopes present, but how they were bound together.

The abundance of bonds containing heavy isotopes of both oxygen and carbon are temperature-dependent, so they can give a reliable picture of the climate of terrestrial environments.

“The application of the clumped-isotope technique provides a unique record of temperature change on land where earlier estimates based on other proxies were either imprecise or ambiguous,” Lohmann said. “This illuminates the response of the terrestrial climate system during this interval of declining carbon dioxide.”

The results are significant in part because they provide further evidence that carbon dioxide is linked to climate not only by way of the vast oceans and their temperature, but by terrestrial temperatures, too, Hren said.

Studies have shown that before this drastic cooling event, Earth’s atmosphere contained 1,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide or more. By the end of the transition, it was likely lower than 600-700 ppm. Some predictions, noted Hren, suggest that Earth’s current carbon dioxide concentrations, close to 400 ppm and climbing, could increase to nearly 1,000 ppm in the next 100 years.

If that turns out to be the case, it’s likely that temperature changes on the scale of the Eocene to Oligocene could occur – but in the other direction, toward a much warmer climate that could again fundamentally alter life on Earth.

“The terrestrial setting is the habitat of humanity,” Lohmann said. “Therefore, understanding the magnitude and heterogeneity of temperature change on land is essential if we are to model and predict the future impacts on society as our climate warms.”

Snail tale: Fossil shells and new geochemical technique provide clues to ancient climate cooling

Using a new laboratory technique to analyze fossil snail shells, scientists have gained insights into an abrupt climate shift that transformed the planet nearly 34 million years ago.

At that time, the Earth switched from a warm and high-carbon dioxide “greenhouse” state to the lower-carbon dioxide, variable climate of the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit).

But studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 C (14.4 F) and large changes in seasonality.

Now, a group of American and British scientists – including two from the University of Michigan – has used a new geochemical technique to analyze heavy isotopes of carbon and oxygen in fossil snail shells. They used the method to measure the change in land temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Their results suggest a drop of as much as 10 C (18 F) for freshwater during the warm season and 6 C (10.8 F) for the atmosphere in the North Atlantic, giving further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth’s surface temperature are inextricably linked.

The team’s findings will be published online April 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author of the paper is Michael Hren, assistant professor of chemistry and geosciences at the University of Connecticut. The U-M co-authors are Nathan Sheldon and Kyger Lohmann of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“One of the key principles of geology is that the past is the key to the present: records of past climate inform us of how the Earth system functions. By understanding past climate transitions, we can better understand the present and predict impacts for the future,” said Hren, a former U-M postdoctoral researcher who worked under Sheldon.

“While our understanding of past changes in the temperature of Earth’s oceans is well established, deciphering the environmental conditions of terrestrial settings has remained elusive. With the application of new analytical techniques, it is now possible to illuminate the paired response of the ocean-land system during episodes of global climate change,” said Lohmann, the director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory, the first U-M facility to use the “clumped-isotope technique.”

The transition between the late Eocene and the Oligocene epochs (between 34 and 33.5 million years ago) was triggered in part by changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide that enabled ice to build up on the Antarctic continent.

Ice-sheet growth, coupled with favorable changes in the Earth’s orbit, pushed the planet past a climatic tipping point and led to both the rapid buildup of a permanent ice sheet in the Antarctic and much larger changes in global climate, the authors wrote.

But much of what is known about this time period’s climate comes from cores drilled deep in the ocean. There, organic and inorganic remains of ancient marine creatures retain chemical signatures of ocean temperatures when they were alive.

Now, the U-M researchers and their colleagues have used the recently developed “clumped-isotope thermometer” technique to examine terrestrial fossil shells from this time period. The team collected fossilized snails from the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, and looked for not just the kind and number of carbon and oxygen isotopes present, but how they were bound together.

The abundance of bonds containing heavy isotopes of both oxygen and carbon are temperature-dependent, so they can give a reliable picture of the climate of terrestrial environments.

“The application of the clumped-isotope technique provides a unique record of temperature change on land where earlier estimates based on other proxies were either imprecise or ambiguous,” Lohmann said. “This illuminates the response of the terrestrial climate system during this interval of declining carbon dioxide.”

The results are significant in part because they provide further evidence that carbon dioxide is linked to climate not only by way of the vast oceans and their temperature, but by terrestrial temperatures, too, Hren said.

Studies have shown that before this drastic cooling event, Earth’s atmosphere contained 1,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide or more. By the end of the transition, it was likely lower than 600-700 ppm. Some predictions, noted Hren, suggest that Earth’s current carbon dioxide concentrations, close to 400 ppm and climbing, could increase to nearly 1,000 ppm in the next 100 years.

If that turns out to be the case, it’s likely that temperature changes on the scale of the Eocene to Oligocene could occur – but in the other direction, toward a much warmer climate that could again fundamentally alter life on Earth.

“The terrestrial setting is the habitat of humanity,” Lohmann said. “Therefore, understanding the magnitude and heterogeneity of temperature change on land is essential if we are to model and predict the future impacts on society as our climate warms.”

The future of power?

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology researchers have successfully split water molecules during multiple thermochemical cycles at low temperatures, sparking hope that sustainable hydrogen energy will one day be feasible.

Rajesh Shende, Ph.D., and Jan Puszynski, Ph.D., of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, have been awarded a $299,975 National Science Foundation (NSF) three-year grant to investigate a high-temperature thermochemical water splitting process. The ultimate goal is to exponentially double hydrogen atoms, creating a sustainable amount of hydrogen regeneration so that a new form of energy can be harvested.

Using thermally-stabilized redox materials, particularly ferrites, the SDSM&T team has documented reliable multiple-cycle results, says Shende.

Just two other U.S. locations, and possibly a third, are conducting similar research, according to Shende. One of the aspects that makes the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology experiments unique is that the group has successfully split water molecules during multiple cycles at significantly lower temperatures than other documented research efforts. While others have demonstrated thermochemical splitting of the water molecule at 800-1,500 degrees Celsius, the SD School of Mines & Technology has documented higher hydrogen volume from water-splitting in multiple cycles at 700-1,100 degrees Celsius, which could potentially lead to a more affordable large-scale effort.

In addition, the School of Mines process is capable of performing water-splitting and material regeneration steps at the same temperature making the process thermally efficient. “In industry this will be more appealing,” says Shende, who is filing an invention disclosure and who has published his findings in scientific magazines.

Higher temperatures normally cause particles to grow so large that hydrogen levels drop, causing very little hydrogen regeneration. The SDSM&T experimental studies look to stabilize the hydrogen levels, enhancing knowledge of the physical and chemical processes involved in thermal stabilization of redox materials’ morphologies without deterioration of complex ferrites. “Others might be splitting water by other methods, but there has to be a lot of novelty to get funded,” says Shende, who built a fully instrumented reactor in his campus laboratory.

The future of power?

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology researchers have successfully split water molecules during multiple thermochemical cycles at low temperatures, sparking hope that sustainable hydrogen energy will one day be feasible.

Rajesh Shende, Ph.D., and Jan Puszynski, Ph.D., of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, have been awarded a $299,975 National Science Foundation (NSF) three-year grant to investigate a high-temperature thermochemical water splitting process. The ultimate goal is to exponentially double hydrogen atoms, creating a sustainable amount of hydrogen regeneration so that a new form of energy can be harvested.

Using thermally-stabilized redox materials, particularly ferrites, the SDSM&T team has documented reliable multiple-cycle results, says Shende.

Just two other U.S. locations, and possibly a third, are conducting similar research, according to Shende. One of the aspects that makes the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology experiments unique is that the group has successfully split water molecules during multiple cycles at significantly lower temperatures than other documented research efforts. While others have demonstrated thermochemical splitting of the water molecule at 800-1,500 degrees Celsius, the SD School of Mines & Technology has documented higher hydrogen volume from water-splitting in multiple cycles at 700-1,100 degrees Celsius, which could potentially lead to a more affordable large-scale effort.

In addition, the School of Mines process is capable of performing water-splitting and material regeneration steps at the same temperature making the process thermally efficient. “In industry this will be more appealing,” says Shende, who is filing an invention disclosure and who has published his findings in scientific magazines.

Higher temperatures normally cause particles to grow so large that hydrogen levels drop, causing very little hydrogen regeneration. The SDSM&T experimental studies look to stabilize the hydrogen levels, enhancing knowledge of the physical and chemical processes involved in thermal stabilization of redox materials’ morphologies without deterioration of complex ferrites. “Others might be splitting water by other methods, but there has to be a lot of novelty to get funded,” says Shende, who built a fully instrumented reactor in his campus laboratory.