Alexandra Cavazos ’19, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Certificate(s): Sustainable Energy

I used micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) to visualize in 3D the desiccation — or extreme drying out — of water-saturated clay-quartz mixtures, which allows us to quantitatively characterize clay soils. The micro-CT images support research on the effect the clay content of rock has on its strength. Knowing this is crucial to developing effective plans for underground CO2 sequestration. Furthermore, the images may help predict the movement of environmental contaminants in soil and can be used to validate microfluidic simulations. I divided my time between drafting an experimental design, purifying clay in the laboratory, and using the micro-CT to scan samples. Now that I have uncovered the parameters that lead to highquality images, I am focusing on improving the experimental setup for clay desiccation. This work will form the basis of my senior thesis. This project afforded me the opportunity to conduct largely self-guided research, while allowing me to seek input from others in the lab and explore ways to connect my work to theirs.