Research Areas


This research area supports basic experimental and theoretical research in geochemistry and geophysics. Geochemical research emphasizes fundamental understanding of geochemical processes and reaction rates, focusing on aqueous solution chemistry, mineral-fluid interactions, and isotopic distributions and migration in natural systems. Geophysical research focuses on new approaches to understand the subsurface physical properties of fluids, rocks, and minerals and develops techniques for determining such properties at a distance; it seeks fundamental understanding of wave propagation physics in complex media and the fluid dynamics of complex fluids through porous and fractured subsurface rock units. Application of x­ray and neutron scattering using BES facilities plays a key role in the geochemical and geophysical studies within this research area. The research area also emphasizes incorporating physical and chemical understanding of geological processes into multiscale computational modeling. Capital equipment funding is provided for items such as x­ray and neutron scattering end stations at BES facilities for environmental samples and for augmenting experimental, field, and computational capabilities.

This research area provides the basic research in geosciences that underpins the nation’s strategy for understanding and mitigating the terrestrial impacts of energy technologies and thus is relevant to the DOE mission in several ways. It develops the fundamental understanding of geological processes relevant to geological disposal options for byproducts from multiple energy technologies. Knowledge of subsurface geochemical processes is essential to determining the fate and transport properties of harmful elements from possible nuclear or other waste releases. Geophysical imaging methods are needed to measure and monitor subsurface reservoirs for hydrocarbon production or for carbon dioxide storage resulting from large-scale carbon sequestration schemes.

To obtain more information about this research area, please see our Core Research Area descriptions and the proceedings of our Principal Investigators' Meetings. To better understand how this research area fits within the Department of Energy's Office of Science, please refer to the Basic Energy Science's organization chart.pdf file (56KB) and budget request.

DOE Reports of Interest
  • Basic Research Needs Workshop Reports (BRNs)
  • Basic Research Needs for Geosciences: Facilitating 21st Century Energy Systems
  • Terrestrial Sequestration of CO2: An Assessment of Research Needs. ( file)
  • Other Carbon Sequestration Reports
  • Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Research Directions
  • Complex Systems -- Science for the 21st Century
  • BESAC Panel Report on Novel Coherent Light Sources ( file)
  • BESAC Subcommittee Report "Directing Matter and Energy:
    Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination"
    (28.88 Mb pdf file)

Selected Research Project Highlights

  • Amorphous Calcium Carbonate-Calcite Transformation in the Spicules of Sea Urchins (2008)
  • Minerals as Semiconductors: Dissolution and Precipitation Coupled with Electron Transfer in Hematite Crystals (2008)
  • The Spallation Neutron Source: an Innovative Tool for Investigating Rutile Hydration Layers (2008)
  • Effects of Acoustic Waves on Stick-Slip in Granular Media and Implications for Earthquakes (2008)
  • Self-Assembling Sub-Porosity: The Effect on Fluid Flow and Seismic Wave Propagation (2007)
  • X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) Tool for Determining Porosity and Permeability of Geologic Materials (2007)
  • Observation of Subnanometer-High Surface Topography with X-ray Reflection Phase-Contrast Microscopy (2006)
  • Fluid Migration in the Deep Subsurface: Leaky Rocks and California Earthquakes (2002)
  • How do Corals do That? (2002)
  • What You Can See is What You Can Get: Seismic Attenuation and Imaging
  • Nature is More Complicated Than We Thought: Interactions Between Chloride and Humic Acids (2002)
  • The Speed of Sound Depends on the Direction it is Traveling
  • Complex Flow: Patterns and Predictions in the Subsurface (2001)
  • A New Habit for Deep Marine Resources (2001)
  • Bacteria can "recognize" minerals (2001)
  • Oldest crystal tells a tale of a hospitable early Earth
  • Terrestrial Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide: Laying the Foundation for Tracking of Injected CO2 in the Subsurface
  • Advanced Imaging of Organic Ligand-Mineral Interactions (2000)
  • Simulations of Fluid Flow in Porous media in both 2 and 3 dimensions with a new lattice Boltzmann Simulator (2000)
  • Heterogeneous isotopic release rates during mineral weathering
  • Thermodynamics and mechanisms of mineral growth: baseline for understanding biologically mediated processes
  • Cracks, Gas and Waves in Underground Imaging
  • Unraveling the record of fluid flow in oil and gas-bearing rock

Related Research

Funding for research in the solid-Earth geosciences is spread out over numerous programs in several agencies of the U.S. federal government, including the Department of Energy. The images below graphically illustrate the relative funding levels of these various programs.

Each bar and label is linked to the web site of the indicated program. Simply click to follow the link.

Solid Earth Research Funding in DOE
Federally Funded Solid Earth Research Programs

For more information about this research area, please contact Dr. Nicholas Woodward .

Last modified: 7/15/2013 8:35:43 AM