The Engineering Science and Disaster Mechanics Research Institute is a multidisciplinary team of active researchers with innovative ideas. They focus on fractal rock mechanics, disaster mechanics, mechanics of deep-rock masses and its applications, underground energy storage, CO2 storage in saline aquifers, and CO2 -mineralization and utilization. Led by CAE academician, Xie Heping, the institute has worked on more than 60 research projects resulting in several scientific innovations.
One example is the development of a technology to generate electricity from the CO2-mineralization process. Mitigating CO2 emissions is a daunting challenge and Xie and his colleagues proposed a solution which transforms harmful carbon dioxide into benign or even useful products.
Combining CO2 with industrial solid wastes, such as steel slag, the research group developed a CO2 mineralization cell (CMC), which converts carbon dioxide into sodium bicarbonate, while simultaneously producing electricity. For every tonne of carbon dioxide, CMC can generate up to 140 kWh of electricity and 1.91 tonnes of sodium bicarbonate.
“Our CO2-mineralization cell is capable of generating electricity without external energy input, the first of its kind,” says Xie. “Its industrial application will bring great benefit, as it not only helps with reducing CO2 emissions, but generates electricity.”
The institute also studies CO2 storage in saline aquifers and resource utilization. Through theoretical, experimental and data analyses, the team studied the mechanical properties and fractal reconstruction of reservoir-specific rocks, rock deformation and seepage, including hydraulic fracturing. They proposed combining geothermal development with CO2 storage in saline aquifers and established principal geological evaluation criteria for site selection. They applied the criteria to the feasibility of integrating geological storage and geothermal resource exploitation for the Shenhua Ordos CTL Project, China’s first carbon capture and storage plant. It will sequester around one million tonnes of CO2 annually from an existing coal-to-liquids (CTL) facility in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Around 500km southeast of Chengdu and 2.4km underground, is the China Jinping Underground Laboratory. Home to the China Dark Matter Experiment and the Particle and Astrophysical Xenon Detector for dark matter, it’s the deepest underground laboratory in the world and the perfect site to study deep rock mechanics.
Drawing on results from the Jinping underground lab, the Engineering Science and Disaster Mechanics Research Institute plans to build a first-class, international open research platform. The institute will explore the interaction of deep-rock mechanics with seismology dynamics, innovate in-situ rock-mass testing methods and pressured coring techniques, and advance theories on in-situ rock mechanics.
By unveiling characteristics of irregular constitutive behaviours of deep rocks, their research will lay strong foundation for safe and efficient excavation of mineral resources and effective disaster prevention. Scientific quests will soon delve deep into the Earth to focus on rock masses and geological activity.