Russian scientists blow up ice to test their theories

3 February 2016

What is the right and safe method to blow up ice on rivers, if a week ago the air temperature was about zero? How to plant explosives, in conditions when spring ice will not melt and it is low temperature? Some scientists of Tomsk State University (TSU) have left their warm laboratories to test their methods in practice.

TSU is located in Siberia where winter comes in November and may continue through March. This is why there is a lot of ice on rivers. However, scientists who are involved in research of the dynamic loading of ice may get some results that are not consistent. The Mobile Laboratory for Research of Behavior of Natural Materials under Explosive Loading was established especially for the express-analysis. The scientists observe the behavior of different types of ice after blasting. 

- Along with the blast on the ice I feel an adrenaline rush, – says Maksim Orlov, PhD, a member of the research team. – Especially exciting is the moment when you move to a crater from the blast, it is a moment of truth that shows the relevance of your theoretical model.

 Currently scientists have found and described 15 types of ice, but the structure of ice is so complex that its behavior under dynamic loading can barely be forecasted. The University’s scientists have investigated different types of ice, including river ice, for 25 years.  A physical and mathematical model of ice behavior under dynamic loads, as well as a numerical method for calculating its impact and explosive loading that is capable of reproducing the main features and mechanisms of deformation and fracture, are currently under development.

- Snow-covered and snow-free ice cover in sandwiched layers has already been an object of our research. We have worked with natural limestone as well, and will soon begin an experimental study of bituminous coal and sparry limestone, - says Maxim Orlov.  - Our goal is to study the morphology of destruction and find patterns in this process. 

 The main difficulty of ice studies was identified in the last century by Malmgren, Kann, Maeno, Bogorodskiy, and others. It lies in the fact that such an ancient natural material as ice under dynamic loading has been little explored. This is due to its complex internal structure, the features of its crystal lattice, its anomalous plastic properties, the multiple phase transitions in the process of deformation, and the influence of temperature.

 Researchers receive unique scientific data from really "going on ice", which are then used to construct mathematical models, among them integral characteristics of the processes (the diameter and depth of explosive lanes, etc.). The results of this research are presented in the article “Mobile laboratory: Explosive destruction of natural materials ": Investigation of the behavior of ice and limestone under explosive loading» (doi: 10.1088 / 1742-6596 / 653/1/012 038).