Department of Geoscience & Engineering
It is our strong conviction that our research should contribute to:
Responsible Use of the Geosphere considering the Impact on System Earth and Society.
We realize this vision by:
- inspiring our staff to be curious, creative, and work in an open and positive atmosphere that stimulates collaboration, internally within the department and also externally;
- creating fundamental, scientific and anticipative understanding of the natural processes and anthropogenic impact on system earth;
- being pioneers in creating knowledge, skills and tools through collaborative research;
- disseminating knowledge by educating the next generation engineers;
- actively engaging in societal debate (e.g., influencers, stakeholders, general public);
- ensuring healthy finances.
We define the geosphere to be that portion of system Earth that includes Earth's interior, rocks, minerals and soils, landforms and the processes that shape the Earth's surface. Responsible use includes the activities related to exploration, exploitation and mitigation of natural and man-induced geo-hazards.
Discover our Stories of Science
Summoning heat from belowHeating our homes is warming up the Earth too. Associate Professor Phil Vardon and PhD candidate Ivaylo Pantev want to warm or cool buildings through their pile foundations, by using the natural temperature of the soil. If done well, this can help residents to save energy, money and problems for generations to come.
Finding fractures in the OutbackArmed with geological tools, a drone, three teammates and a four-wheel drive, geologist Pierre-Olivier Bruna ventured far off the beaten track into Australia’s Outback in the Northern Territory. His purpose: to study the geological history and structure of the McArthur Basin in an area called the ”Lost City” with peculiar stone pillars. The team specifically investigated natural cracks, called fractures, in the rocks to understand how fluids like groundwater or hydrocarbons flow through the rocks.
The geocentrifuge: a time machine for soilWhat happens underground when a landslide occurs? And how do we prevent a high water load or the weight of passing traffic from causing a dike to collapse? Assistant Professor Amin Askarinejad explains how the geocentrifuge at TU Delft can provide detailed simulations of long term subsurface processes in a short time.
Mapping minerals with sensor technologyMinerals are of great importance to our modern society. From smartphone to laptop, these elements are everywhere. First they need to be extracted from the earth however, an often environmentally taxing, slow and complex process. But this will change soon, if it’s up to PhD student Feven Desta. Desta researches sensor technologies to look for minerals in an environmentally friendly way.
Micro-CT scanner reveals secrets hidden in prehistoric eggsIn 2016 archaeologists digging at a building site in Tilburg stumbled upon thirteen egg-shaped objects. Geoscientist Dominique Ngan put them in the micro-CT scanner of the Geoscience and Engineering Lab, studied the resulting 3D pictures and noticed some very interesting imprints in their shells. ‘A small find like this can shed a lot of light on a period we don’t know very much about.’
Drilling for heat deep down belowThe deeper you go into the ground, the hotter it gets. Richard Bakker, a researcher at the Geoscience & Engineering department, knows all about this. He has previously conducted research on volcanoes, but is currently working on geothermal energy. In other words, using the heat from the subsurface to generate sustainable energy. "You do not simply dig for energy," explains Bakker. "There must be water in the subsurface at a depth where the temperature is just right." By pumping up this hot water, you can power a steam turbine or use it for heating, depending on the temperature of the water. This makes it possible to heat your home and even power lights using geothermal energy.
It takes a big tank to research a megaprojectThe Geoscience and Engineering lab is home to a device that looks much like an ordinary aquarium - except this one is five metres high, two meters wide and two meters deep. It is filled with a layer of submerged sand. This is where PhD Arash Maghsoudloo studies the seafloor close to the Oosterschelde storm-surge barrier, which is part of the flood defence system protecting the Netherlands from the sea.
Getting to grips with land subsidenceWhile Femke Vossepoel’s husband and kids were choosing a Christmas tree she was busy typing up a research proposal about land motion. After a career at Shell, Vossepoel was determined to return to science. ‘In four years’ time we will have developed a prototype for a subsurface model which will give us a more accurate prediction of land subsidence resulting from natural gas extraction,’ she claims. As far as the government and businesses are concerned, it can’t come soon enough.
Securing leaking dykes using a natural binding agentEven the most robust of dykes can be prone to seepage: groundwater that permeates the soil underneath the dyke and ends up in the polders behind them. It’s a headache for livestock farmers and water boards alike. Professor of environmental geotechnics Timo Heimovaara, postdoc Susanne Laumann and PhD candidate Jiani Zhou are currently testing SoSEAL, a technique inspired by a natural process which uses organic materials to seal permeable soil layers. The first test has already proved successful.
Scanning for SyriaThe clay tablets with cuneiform writing from the museum in Raqqa in northern Syria have been destroyed or plundered. But a lot of valuable information can be saved by making 3D scans and prints of moulds that were made before the war. Dominique Ngan Tillard, geo-engineer at TU Delft, often works with archaeologists. She uses micro CT scans to create images of the insides of objects. And now she can try to do the same with the Syrian clay tablets.
Producing geothermal energy in IndonesiaHer fieldwork takes geologist Fiorenza Deon to remote areas in Indonesia and it wasn’t long before she learned the language, a skill she needs to be able to negotiate with the local authorities. Her geologic research forms part of GEOCAP, an international collaboration between the governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands, companies and universities aimed at exploring the use of geothermal energy. But GEOCAP is about more than just scientific research, underlines Deon. “Bilateral cooperation offers huge advantages to all parties.”
Rivers from a distant pastArmed with a hammer and a pickaxe and with a drone flying overhead, Hemmo Abels studies the sediments left by rivers that once flowed across the plains of the United States. By means of painstaking detective work he is gradually piecing together a picture of how these rivers changed over time, a process influenced in part by ancient climate change. The data he is gathering sheds light on our own subsoil when it comes to detecting hydrocarbon and geothermal reservoirs. ‘The effects of climate on river systems have been hugely under-researched.’
15 November 2019
New exploration method for geothermal energy
International research team presents combination of mapping of underwater structures and geochemical measurements.
08 November 2019
GSE research projects feature in Delft Outlook
Various research projects of our department regarding the underground, have been featured in the magazine Delft Outlook.
21 October 2019
Neanderthal glue from the North Sea
Scientific research has revealed that a flint tool cased in a tar-like substance is actually one of the few examples of the use of glue by Neanderthals.