Optical Fabric and Fiber Logging of Glacial Ice
This award supports a project to combine the expertise of both glaciologists and optical engineers to develop polarization- preserving optical scattering techniques for borehole tools to identify changes in high-resolution crystal structure (fabric) and dust content of glacial ice. The intellectual merit of this work is that the fabric and impurity content of the ice contain details on climate, volcanic activity and ice flow history. Such fabric measurements are currently taken by slicing an ice core into sections after it has started to depressurize which is an extremely time-intensive process that damages the core and does not always preserve the properties of ice in its in-situ state. In addition the ice core usually must be consumed in order to measure the components of the dust. The fabric measurements of this study utilize the concept that singly-scattered light in ice preserves most of its polarization when it is backscattered once from bubbles or dust; therefore, changes to the polarization of singly-backscattered light must originate with the birefringence. Measurements based on this concept will enable this program to obtain continuous records of fabric and correlate them to chronology and dust content. The project will also develop advanced borehole instruments to replace current logging tools, which require optical sources, detectors and power cables to be submerged in borehole fluid and lowered into the ice sheet at temperatures of -50oC. The use of telecommunications fiber will allow all sources and detectors to remain at the surface and enable low-noise signal processing techniques such as lock-in amplification that increase signal integrity and reduce needed power. Further, fiber logging systems would be much smaller and more flexible than current tools and capable of navigating most boreholes without a heavy winch. In order to assess fabric in situ and test fiber-optic borehole tools, field measurements will be made at WAIS Divide and a deep log will also be made at Siple Dome, both in West Antarctica. If successful, the broader impacts of the proposed research would include the development of new analytical methods and lightweight logging tools for ice drilling research that can operate in boreholes drilled in ice. Eventually the work could result in the development of better prehistoric records of glacier flow, atmospheric particulates, precipitation, and climate forcing. The project encompasses a broad base of theoretical, experimental, and design work, which makes it ideal for training graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Collaboration with schools and classroom teachers will help bring aspects of optics, climate, and polar science to an existing Middle School curriculum.
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