Project aims to study ice to help future engineers

Josh Pennell
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A new research project launched by the Centre for Arctic Re­source Development wants to study ice to improve offshore operating expertise in harsh environments.

The project will study what’s called ice rubble.

“It’s essentially broken pieces of ice created when a sheet (of ice) presses up against something else,” said David Murrin, executive director of the Centre for Arctic Resource Development (CARD).

“These things can grow very big,” he added.

When an ice sheet presses against another ice sheet or some other obstacle, pieces naturally break off. But those pieces fuse together.

“They grow above and below the waterline. When they grow very, very big below the waterline, that’s when they start getting in the way of some other infrastructure and stuff like that,” Murrin said.

Ice rubble isn’t quite like what is offshore of Newfoundland. Icebergs have a portion above and below the waterline, and there’s certainly plenty of pack ice around, but ice rubble is more of a factor further north.

CARD is planning ahead with this project and trying to learn about the mechanics of ice rubble so information is available for engineers when they build infrastructure, Murrin said.

“By understanding how ice rubble behaves as a material, engineers can design structures that operate safely and efficiently where ice rubble exists in the Arctic and other ice-prone regions.”

To study the mechanics of it, researchers will take measurements of how strong, brittle, elastic, etc. the ice rubble is. CARD hopes to provide that basic understanding to engineers who will work on designs in the future.

The project will employ 16 people, including researchers, technicians and students, Murrin said.

“These students will really have a rare opportunity to be involved in a project of this scale.”

He added that it will help advance the next generation of Arctic experts building on the research expertise the province has to offer.

CARD is part of the C-CORE complex on Memorial University’s St. John’s campus.

Organizations: Arctic Resource Development

Geographic location: Arctic, Newfoundland

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