Dr Paul Slezak and Prithwijit Chakraborti of iCRAG at UCD have been awarded a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship and Postgraduate Scholarship, respectively, by the Irish Research Council. Announcing €27m in funding for new research projects, the investment will fund 316 awards in total, namely 239 postgraduate scholarships and 77 postdoctoral fellowships.
Dr Slezak's work is focused on the Mourne Mountains Complex (MMC), a unique complex of multiple generations of granitic rocks, some with anomalous showings of critical elements. The MMC presents an excellent opportunity to evaluate the geochemical and magmatic processes involved in concentrating these elements. This project will evaluate the MMC and contribute to different areas including igneous petrology as applied to critical metal geochemistry, critical raw materials, and advancement of hyperspectral cathodoluminescence applications in critical element-bearing minerals. Understanding the MMC’s origins, evolution, and mineralogy will provide the foundation of Ireland as an subject matter expert in critical metal mineralogy, chemistry, and geometallurgy, supporting the UN SDG 13 sustainability and climate goals and potentially contributing to the proposed EU Critical Raw Materials Act.
The Mourne Mountain Complex (MMC) is a subalkaline granitic igneous suite prospective critical metals. This project is 1) investigating the elemental deportment in critical metal-bearing minerals using hyperspectral cathodoluminescence and 2) conducting radiogenic isotope analyses (e.g. Nd, Sr, Pb) to determine the origins and processes that affect critical metal tenor in granitic systems. The outcomes of this study will not only contribute to foundational geologic knowledge but also provide insights to natural processes that may be reverse engineered and applied towards better mineral processing.
Prithwijt Chakraborti's research project is entitled "An improved characterisation of subsurface using geophysical inversion incorporated with subsurface structure and physical properties of rocks to support mineral exploration" and will be conducted under the supervision of Dr Aline Melo in the UCD School of Earth Sciences.
In today's resource-constrained world, a fast transition to renewable resources of energy is critical to developing a sustainable society. The mineral industry will support this energy transition by supplying the critical raw materials for the future production of green technologies. The mineral resources in the earth's near-surface have already been explored, and now we need innovative subsurface visualization tools to identify minerals at greater depths. The development of geophysical data acquisition and processing techniques will optimize our search for the hidden ore bodies beneath the earth's surface.
Geophysical inversion is a method used to create models of the subsurface from the data we collect on the surface of earth using various geophysical exploration techniques. Modern exploration techniques have been able to generate technically precise models depicting the physical property distributions of the subsurface, but correctly interpreting the rock types and its distribution from the model has been a major hurdle towards identifying optimum target zones.
The research will focus on developing a new technique to visualize and interpret the subsurface character of earth by formulating a geophysical inversion framework that incorporates additional information of rock properties and subsurface structure using petrophysics and seismic data to generate more precise and realistic geophysical models. We will be using this new inversion technique to analyse the subsurface features of the volcanic rocks in Limerick and look for potential mineralised zones. The algorithms developed in this project with the help of machine learning and innovative computational techniques will help the mining industry in better interpretation of the subsurface geology and targeting optimum drilling areas, thus reducing risks involved in mineral exploration.