UCL Earth Sciences


3D Printing the World.

5 July 2019

Outreach: The Royal Society Discovery Hub event - Paula Koelemeijer, a research fellow funded by the Royal Society, and her team shared their knowledge about plate tectonics, seismic tomography and other aspects of earth sciences.

3D printing the world

Did you know that after a large earthquake, the Earth vibrates like a bell? And, much like the sounds that musical instruments make based on their form, these vibrations can tell us about the structure of the landscapes that lie beneath the surface of our planet.

Researchers and students from UCL - Paula Koelemeijer, Elodie Kendall, Will Sturgeon and Alice Turner - took part in one of the biggest science outreach events in London: the Royal Society Summer Exhibition. While the main Exhibition ran the full first week of July, the team participated in the Discovery Hub during the late opening on Tuesday 2nd July, which aimed to showcase research that is funded by the Royal Society.


Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition Lates 2019 3D printing the world

The UCL team, led by Dr Paula Koelemeijer, made use of modern 3D printing techniques to illustrate several concepts in the Earth Sciences. 3D printed globes of planetary topography, including Earth, Mars and the Moon, were used to discuss the importance of plate tectonics on shaping the surface of a planet. In addition, the landscapes of the deep Earth were brought to life in 3D printed seismic matryoshka’s or seismic Russian dolls. These representations of Earth’s internal structure were developed using a technique termed seismic tomography, in which observations of earthquake waves and the sounds of the Earth around the globe are combined to produce CT scans of the Earth. These global models enable researchers to study the dynamic processes occurring in the deep Earth that have shaped the evolution of our planet.  

Visitors could not only explore these 3D printed globes and multi-layered physical models, but also take paper printouts to make their own paper analogues. Maybe a nice way to decorate the Christmas tree?

Images from the event courtesy of Dr Paula Koelemeijer.

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