Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Morning Insight; Using Muon Tomography to Image Salt Domes ?

In Louisana and Texas; there is an interest in imaging salt domes. This is for two reasons: an industrial one as oil and gas deposits seem to be neighbors to these structures and an environmental one which can be briefly summarized in these two videos of the 1980 Lake Peigneur sinkhole disaster and the recent appearance of a sinkhole in  Napoleonville, LA.



What is a salt dome and why it matters that it collapses ? In that region it may be a sign that there is a more structural connection to the Gulf of Mexico since as soon as water hits salt; the structural dome becomes liquid and unstable.  
There are currently two majors means of performing this imaging: Acoustic/Seismic imaging and gravity. Both involve dilling most of the time since performing the survey from the surface only makes it hard to image the near vertical structure of the dome. But as we know and see from the sinkhole examples, in some cases drilling may not be appropriate. Here is another idea that ought to be investigated and which could provide a richer set of elements : Muon Tomography [2].
from [5]

from [4]

from [6]


Thomas Arildsen said...

I don't really know anything about muon tomography, but the images you show seem to imply that the object you want to image has to be be between the sky and the sensor. Since I guess you cannot image the salt domes through Earth, it seems you would have to somehow get the sensor under the salt dome = drilling quite a lot... What am I missing?

Igor said...


Very valid qustion you have. i was thinking of two things, either:

* one can use the holes drilled to get the graviity or seismic measurements. The muon measurements provide a different kind of measurement which might enrich the current imaging.

* use the fact that the coulomb scattering is different for salt and the rest of the soil so that any assymetry at the surface flux is the result of different muon scattering trajectories and therefore different media underneath.

You may have noticed that the title of the entry was a question :-) as in, it needs to be looked into. these detectors could be left alone in the middle of nowhere for months at a time without much human intervention.


Thomas Arildsen said...

Interesting ideas indeed.