WRL Unveils its “Time Machine”
Since its opening in 1959, the Water Research Laboratory has played host to a large variety of research equipment and facilities, but it now boasts its own time machine!
On September 7th, WRL celebrated the launch of its newest facility, the Groundwater Education Investment Fund (GEIF) headquarters and its star attraction, an $800,000 geotechnical centrifuge which is one of only two of its kind in the world.
Funded by the Australian Research Council and the National Water Commission, the centrifuge has been described as a time machine, since it allows researchers to preview the long-term effects of groundwater abstraction on aquifers and aquitards. In particular, the impacts on aquitards that result from coal seam gas extraction and longwall mining can be investigated.
This is achieved by spinning rock samples taken from the aquitards that typically occur above coal seams at speeds up to 300 x gravity to test their permeability. A single day’s testing can equal 100 days of flow in “real” time and, according to Professor Ian Acworth, director of the UNSW Connected Waters Initiative based at WRL, “experiments that would previously take 30 years to complete can now be achieved in a number of days or weeks.”
The official launch of the centrifuge and the GEIF headquarters was attended by a large number of guests from academia and industry, including Ms Clare McLaughlin (General Manager of the Department of Innovation Industry Science and Research); Professor Craig Simmons from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training; Professor Graham Davies, Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Engineering, and other affiliated guests from the National Water Commission, NSW Office of Water and the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.
Also in attendance were a large number of guests who had attended the International Association of Hydrologists Symposium held in Sydney earlier in the week.
The launch attracted a Sydney Morning Herald feature article, and the centrifuge’s research potential is continuing to attract media interest throughout Australia.
For further information regarding centrifuge permeameter testing and aquitard research please contact Dr Wendy Timms: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: http://www.connectedwaters.unsw.edu.au/technical/research/projects/projects_aquitards.html