Skip to main content

Lake Ellsworth: Exploring the Unknown


In December 2012, a team of British scientists and engineers will drill through 3km of solid ice into the buried Lake Ellsworth, Antarctica, to search for life forms in the water and clues to the past climate on earth buried in the lake bed sediments.

AIM has been helping the project in its own small, but important, way. Les Johnson (AIM’s Technical Director and resident insulation systems expert) has contributed to the project by designing an insulation system capable of protecting the stainless steel inlet pipe to the all-important hot water drill, down to continuous operating temperatures of as low as -25°C. This system incorporates elements provided by NMC UK, an insulation manufacturer based in Tredegar, South Wales who specialise in polyethylene foams, and combining this with a heat trace system manufactured by Pentair Thermal Management of Washington, Tyne and Wear.


The mission is the culmination of years of research into life in extreme environments.
If the team find life in the sub glacial lake, it will be significant as the lake’s water has been under incredible pressure and shut off from any light for up to half a million years, before the last Great Ice Age.
If the team are not successful in the search for life under lake Ellsworth it would be even more significant as it would reveal the limits at which life on earth can no longer exist. This in turn is of relevance as it would aid the search for life elsewhere on Earth, and on other planets.

So, why choose Lake Ellsworth? The first reason is that the lake itself is small, and therefore easy to understand. It is also isolated topographically and therefore resistant to ice sheet changes that occur over glacial cycles or ice flows that would disrupt the lake.

In terms of supply routes it makes a lot of sense too, as it is close to the logistical hub at Union Glacier from where heavy loads can arrive from South America and be transported to the site.

AIM will be following the progress of the mission closely. If you would like to know more about the mission you can visit their website at: www.ellsworth.org.uk

We will be bringing you a series of articles on the mission, we hope you will be as interested in the project as we all are at AIM.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Beginners Guide to Pipe Insulation: Flexible Foams

Next up in the series we are doing on pipe insulation is "flexible foams"; a category that includes polyethylene and expanded nitrile rubber.


Polyethylene Pipe Insulation
Climaflex pipe insulation is the UK's leading brand for polyethylene pipe insulation. This is the grey foam that most people are familiar with, the kind you would traditionally find in garden centres for example. Polyethylene is the cheapest, widely available product in the market. People very often wrongly assume cheap means poor quality, this is not the case with a brand such as Climaflex. It has a thermal conductivity of 0.034 W/m.K at 0°C which is broadly equal to that of any other flexible foam, and it also has a much higher "μ factor" than other foams, making it more resistant to moisture ingress. These facotrs make it ideal for use around the home, being easy to work with and providing good insulation. 
The material can be purchased in 1m and 2m lengths, and is available in wall thicknesse…

The Beginners Guide To Pipe Insulation: Getting to grip with the basics

Our Beginners Guide series of blogs will look at the common areas of pipe insulation lagging that you will want to look at when choosing your product. This guide will be of most interest to the DIY installers, but some of our later guides will cover more complex products and areas of application.

One of the things we get asked about a lot is what the dimensions quoted for pipe insulation actually mean. You will always see three measurements quoted when describing pipe insulation; Wall Thickness, Bore Size and Length.

In the below diagram, A is the "Bore" and B is the "Wall".

Wall thickness is very simply how much insulation you have; so for example if you have 13mm Wall pipe insulation, then that means you have 13mm of insulation on either side of your pipe. This thickness is very often one of the most important part of your decision; too thin and you might not get the results you are looking for but too thick and it might not fit between your pipe and the wall.

If…

Frost protection for domestic pipes

With the cold weather approaching we thought it would be a good idea to touch on how best to protect your pipes from frost this winter.

When dealing with frost protection on pipes inside a building your aim with insulating them is to delay the onset of freezing for as long as possible; it is not possible to guarantee a pipe will not freeze by insulation alone. The better the insulation, and the thicker the insulation, the longer you will give yourself. Under normal circumstances you aim to give yourself about 8-10 hours protection against sub zero temperatures. With pipes inside a home this is usually long enough to be sure the pipes will not freeze.


Ice formation inside the pipes will lead to an increase in pressure. As the water tries to flow this pressure will increase, and eventually will lead to the pipes bursting. A burst pipe can cause a lot of problems, not least of which is a lot of damage to your property and a lot of expense incurred.

Water regulations state that all water …