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3D rock analysis helping the mining boom Return to case studies page

ACT node supporting Digitalcore
Supporting: Mining and Mineral exploration.
The ability to rapidly and efficiently analyse core samples for prospective oil and gas exploration operations using micro and nanotechnology is enabling more effective extraction of hydrocarbons.

Digitalcore has won the prestigious 2012 Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation for its efforts bringing this technology to the mining industry.

Digitalcore, a long time client of the ANFF ACT node, provides 3-dimensional analysis of core samples, primarily using X-ray CT scanning. For some samples, CT scanning does not have the resolution to see the nano-scale features required for a meaningful analysis.

Using the Focused Ion Beam (FIB) system and expert staff at the ACT node, Digitalcore has developed a 3D imaging technique for minerals with such fine features.

The technique uses a focussed gallium ion beam to mill a small hole in the sample. Using the scanning electron beam integrated into the FIB system, the edge of this hole can be imaged. Images of subsequent slices milled from the edge of this hole can be combined to create a single 3D image with nanometre resolution.

“Together with ANFF, we have been leading the application of these (FIB) systems on rock samples to produce nanoscale 3D images of tight unconventional geological systems such as shales and tight gas” said Dr Victor Pantano, CEO of Digitalcore.

“This work is important as these geological samples cannot be analysed using traditional means, and thus the work with the ANFF provides a means of characterising these increasingly important oil and gas bearing formations.”