Mathematical models help locate raw materials

This image shows Dr. Raimon Tolosana-Delgado. -  HZDR
This image shows Dr. Raimon Tolosana-Delgado. – HZDR

The engineering geologist Dr. Raimon Tolosana-Delgado from the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf will receive this year’s Felix Chayes Prize from the International Association for Mathematical Geosciences (IAMG). He is to be honored for his mathematical models on the development of rocks and sediments; which might be helpful in indicating where crude oil as well as other raw material deposits are located. The prize, which is endowed with US $7,000, will be presented at the IAMG’s annual conference to be held in Madrid, Spain, between September 2 and 6, 2013.

Raimon Tolosana-Delgado is particularly delighted since he will receive the Felix Chayes Prize in his home country, Spain. The scientist has been working at the HIF since October 2012. He completed his studies and his doctoral dissertation at different Spanish universities. During this time, he also carried out a five months’ predoctoral research stage at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald. He then worked for several years at the Georg-August-Universit├Ąt Goettingen and at the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), one of the largest technical universities in Spain.

Raimon Tolosana-Delgado uses statistical calculations to ascertain how rocks are formed and how specific types of sediments are created through erosion and transportation of rocks by glaciers and rivers. Rocks and sediments are the source of many raw materials on earth, whether it be such energy carriers as, for example, crude oil or mineral and metalliferous resources. Numerous factors play a role in this, for example, moderately high pressures and temperatures; but also the climate or the environment have an impact on the formation of raw material deposits. “If we can understand and model these conditions, then this will help us assess where we can find these raw materials,” he says. The Spanish scientist is above all interested in the formation of these materials. “It’s my goal to develop general models which can be used for different raw materials.”

So far, Raimon Tolosana-Delgado’s primary focus has been on the characteristic properties and the development of sediments as well as the associated chemical processes. They are particularly relevant when it comes to the formation of oil deposits. Similar data are also needed in order to determine which rocks might have minerals in them considered as valuable industrial resources. “In the future, quantitative mathematical models could help improve the exploration of deposits and the assessment of whether a particular source of raw materials is significant enough or too small. These models could also be important because the easy-to-find, near-surface deposits have essentially been found, and future explorations have to be carried out at greater depths,” notes the researcher. But the models could also permit the development of more efficient methods for the extraction of raw materials.

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