I’m a geophysics researcher based at a UK university. In geophysics, we work with a range of exploration tools, from gravity and magnetic surveys, to radar and other electromagnetic techniques to find features in the ground. These are really important in many aspects of our society; whether it is surveying a site before constructing a new building, identifying leakage from landfills, finding the mineral resources to develop new clean technologies, or even uncovering ancient archeological artefacts.

Despite this wide use and importance, as well as a demand for skilled geophysicists, in the UK the number of geophysics students is in decline. This is, in part, because many people don’t really know what geophysics is.

So, in the last year or so, I have turned my hobby tinkering with electronics into a more focused effort to develop fun and easy to use electronic equipment to introduce a wider audience to geophysics. In particular school kids.

So far, I have prototyped an Arduino or Raspberry Pi powered magnetometer, electrical resistivity meter, and a rock compression thing (literally a couple of old strain gauges glued to scrap wood... work in progress). I’m also planning a simple gravimeter, MEMS accelerometer seismometer system, electromagnetic transceivers, and a small ground penetrating radar (GPR) system. The professional level kit we typically use costs several tens of thousands of pounds each, but my aim is to build each for a few hundred pounds or less, so that they are readily affordable by schools

The picture is my current “home office” space where I’ve been working for the past year (I miss my bigger “real” office desk). On the breadboard is a prototype 2 sensor magnetic gradiometer, which is very useful for seeing shallow changes in magnetic properties (such as you might find in an archeological site). When I took this photo, I was testing a TC9402 frequency to voltage converter to fine tune its setup for the range of frequencies generated by the sensors. I only have handheld multimeters and a USB oscilloscope. So, having some benchtop meters would be really helpful in developing my school geophysics kit.


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