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Testbeds

The Center will employ a broad array of enabling and systems integration testbeds. Full-scale field testbeds at sites provided by our Industrial Partners will include unpaved roads, landfills, mine tailings, embankments, disturbed and denuded wildfire sites, and a port backlands site. Enabling testbeds include benchtop columns and loading systems in the laboratories of the partner Universities and two major field station sites: the UCD Center for Geotechnical Modeling (CGM) and the ASU East Campus Field Site (ECFS).

The CGM is an existing facility and includes the UCD geotechnical centrifuge (a NEES shared-use facility) and a large soil test pit. The ECFS will be constructed on a 1-acre site on ASU’s East Campus. The ECFS will include the microbial nursery, the rainfall simulator, and a large soil test pit. Equipment available at the facility will include a central data question system, a soils laboratory for index and classification tests, and high-resolution terrestrial Lidar equipment capable of monitoring soil loss due to wind and water erosion with centimeter-level and possibly sub-centimeter precision.

Unique to the Center will be two new enabling technology laboratories constructed at GT. The 2,500-square foot Laboratory for Bio-inspired Processes will explore biological systems as engineering analogs (e.g., root and reinforcement mechanisms) to identify next-generation bio-inspired processes. The lab will be equipped with extensive instrumentation and devices to visualize and monitor biological processes in their natural subsurface environment.

The 3,000-square foot High-Pressure Bio-Mediated Processes Laboratory (HPBPL) will allow the study of bio-mediated processes in sediment and jointed rock systems subject to high fluid pressure and effective stress. Depressurization during sample recovery can cause gas exsolution, destructuration of deep sediments (e.g., marine, shales, tar sands), affect microorganisms survivability, and may dramatically hinder the ability to study bio-mediated processes in deep sediments and fractured rock masses. The HPBPL will be equipped to recover and process specimens (with microorganisms) obtained using pressure core technology without depressurizing the pore fluid. Testing and characterization tools will allow measurements under pressure and subsampling for biological studies under in situ pressure and temperature conditions.

Salient characteristics of this laboratory facility include: operating fluid pressure of 30 MPa (3,000-m water depth), effective stress of 10 MPa (1,000-m depth from the sea floor), multi-fluid control ports (CH4, CO2, water, brine, heavy oil), versatile and modular chambers for incubation and sampling, sapphire windows for direct observation, X-ray transparent high-pressure vessels, instrumentation to monitor processes (gamma density, X-rays, P&S waves, strength, pressure transducers, thermocouples, electrical resistivity tomography and impedance spectroscopy), high-resolution photography and long focal length microscopes (monitoring through sapphire windows), X-ray tomography to explore spatial variability, and external biological testing for genotypic and phenotypic screening and characterization. This HPBPL will enable innovative studies in bioprospecting for novel anaerobic consortia that catalyze microbially enhanced oil recovery and deep aquifer decontamination (with an emphasis on jointed rock masses, selective advection disruption, and authigenic mineralization).