Th rock mechanics lab at Lamont-Doherty was once used by a famous experimental geologist, but has been quiet for some time now. Last year Lamont hired Heather Savage to take over the lab. She, the longtime lab tech, two undergraduates, and I are now starting the process of rehabilitating and revamping the lab for exciting new experiments. I thought I would document the task with this blog. Enjoy!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

changing a gasket

So we've been suspecting for awhile that the vertical hydraulic piston on the biax might be leaking. Now that Nicholas has arrived to really start plugging away on some experiments, it became apparent that it needed fixing. Ted figured that we needed to change a gasket, which is no small feat. This week Ted and Nicholas slung a pulley system over a beam in the ceiling and carefully lifted out the cylinder.
 Inside that big yellow cylinder lives a whole series of concentric rings that fit together to form the seal. Ted and Nicholas inspected them all carefully. Most of them were all still in great shape, despite some forty odd years of usage. But one piece in particular was torn to shreds. They replaced the part, lugged the cylinder back up and reattached it to the biax frame.
Next thing on the docket is improving the hydraulic system on the vertical ram. Nicholas wants to add a reservoir system so that he can very quickly add and decrease the normal stress. Currently we only have a little hand crank. To be continued...

Friday, 11 January 2013

Post-holiday activities in the lab

There has been a flurry of activity in the rock mechanics lab now that we are all back from the holiday. Hannah has been making big strides in the paleothermometer project, cranking out up to four experiments per day. Next she will analyze the samples in the mass spectrometer.

And although Mandy had to return to Germany, Heather has been continuing to put jackets on her granite samples in anticipation of Mandy's return later this year. Those copper jackets (left) have to be pressed onto the sample by bringing both up to 60 MPa in the triax. The blue plastic makes a seal to hold the pressure internally.                                                                              And finally, I continued to work on the electronics for the ice rig by creating yet another panel. This one will allow us to splice into the signal coming from each of the load cells and LVDT, which will be extremely helpful once we start troubleshooting the apparatus.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Fall AGU

Last week was the annual convention for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held each year in San Francisco. More than 20,000 earth scientists gathered to share their research, network and collaborate on new projects. A big crew of folks from our lab were in attendance. Both Heather and Nicholas gave talks and Rachel, Mandy, and I presented posters about our work. Below, Rachel shows off her recent results from the paleothermometer project that she has with Heather and Pratigya.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Oh Mandy, Well you visited and you helped get the triax running...

Just like Barry Manilow, we are singing the praises of our visiting scientist, Mandy Duda. She came to Lamont this fall to run some experiments on the triaxial deformation apparatus. Her visit is funded by a postdoc fellowship from the German funding agency, DAAD. Her plan is to do some cyclical loading of rock samples, under confining pressure at various temperatures. But before she could start getting some data, she and Ted had a lot of work to do. A new burly intensifier to control confining pressure was added and connected to the hydraulic plumbing system (below left) and a Haskel air booster was wired up to help apply the confining pressure (below right).

After a lot of troubleshooting, she is now able to load her samples. Here she has wrapped her Westerly granite samples with copper tubing and is attaching it to the top closure nut. The blue stuff is rubber tubing that seals the interface between the sample and the end caps. Wires coming out the bottom (top) of the closure nut (which will be inverted when the sample is loaded) will send the temperature measurements to the command center and the computer. 
Sample is all loaded. Now she's just checking to see if things are aligned. She also connects the LVDT which will measure vertical displacement of the bottom piston.
It's go time! Here Mandy and Ted are at the command center applying a confining pressure to the sample for the first time. The rig has no trouble going up to and holding pressure at 60 MPa. Success! Next they will try to apply a vertical load to a sample, in addition to the confining pressure. Can't wait to see the results of her cyclic loading experiments!

Monday, 20 August 2012

design work on the road

At the experimentalist's workshop, Ted and I tinkered with the design for the ice rig. While I scribbled around on graphing paper, Ted transferred my ideas to a digital CAD-style schematic and fine-tuned the bottom loading feature. It's coming along...

Friday, 17 August 2012

old Dutch lathe

Ted, Heather, and I are off in Boston at a workshop for experimentalists, so there's not a lot of progress in the lab at the moment. In the meantime I thought I'd share some pictures taken during my vacation in the Netherlands last week. In a small town near Amsterdam there is an open-air museum called Zuiderzee, which is an entire 17th century Dutch fishing village. In addition to all kinds of other aspects related to life at that time (smoking fish, doing laundry, burning coal, rope-making, etc.) the museum had a guy doing some woodworking using an old-school, foot-powered lathe. It looked pretty fun.

I suppose once you do some woodworking to make your wooden shoe, you could grab some paint and glitter and "Pimp your klomp"!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Summer at Lamont

Summer at Lamont is a glorious thing. No classes, no reading groups, no seminars. It's all just about research and finding ways to enjoy the sun. This year a bunch of us kicked off the summer with the First Annual Crawfish boil. Tim (below, aproned) spent some time in the Big Easy, so he knows how it should all go down. He flew in an ungodly amount of live craw daddies from Louisiana (seriously, he picked them up at the airport and everything!) brought potatoes, corn, andouille, some secret spices, and pots big enough to feed an army. While we looked on and cheered, he boiled the whole thing up. 

The feast was spread out on a newspaper and we all devoured it with nothing but our hands. So tasty!

One of the great things about Lamont is the wild life. Even though we're only a half hour from Manhattan, we're essentially in the woods here. Pretty much year round we have regular sightings of deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, and bunnies. With the onset of spring and summer, we also start to see baby things. All summer we've been watching this pair of geese and their pack of goslings right outside our office window.
Well they ate and they ate and now, mid-summer, they are all grown up! (They also have a very unhealthy confidence around humans and get VERY close to us. This was not taken with a zoom lens)
 Okay, this is the world's worst camera phone picture but I was just so excited to see yet another animal on campus: a little turtle making its way over to the small lake we have on campus.

Summer is also the time for campus construction. Here a huge crane is being used to make improvements to the core lab. We are also having the second floor of the seismology building completely renovated. I can hear the lovely cacophony of saws and sledgehammers right now actually. (Okay so there is some downside to the summer activities. But we'll get lots of new, much-needed office space, so it's worth it). Next to the core lab some folks have also started a new Lamont community garden. Volunteers have pitched in to put up a new fence with chicken wire to keep out the gophers and, below, are busy tilling and planting.
And during the summer everyone gets out to enjoy their sport of choice. The soccer players have a regular crew of folks come out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at lunch. Just beyond their field, you'll see volleyball net up for the ballers who play on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00. There is even yoga on Tuesdays in the old Lamont hall library. I have been trying to get a regular ultimate frisbee game going as well, but we are having a hard time getting a consistent group together with everyone's summer travel schedules. I'll keep trying to rally the troops.

Speaking of travel schedules, Ted should be coming back soon from his research cruise. Before Heather and I take off for our conferences, I hope we will all be able to make some big progress on the ice rig. So more on that soon!