RWTH Aachen University, Physics Institute III B

Goals to be achieved

Within TRIPLE, the group from the Physics Institute III B of the RWTH Aachen University is developing a retrievable melting probe, its sonar based forefield reconnaissance system and the ground support equipment. The melting probe needs to be able to transport the nanoAUV safely through the massive ice sheet. It needs to detect and circumnavigate obstacles during this mission. At the ice-water interface of the subglacial water reservoir the probe has to hold its position and deploy and support the nanoAUV. After the nanoAUVs exploration the probe will return to the surface.  

Tasks within the project

  • Development of the retrievable TRIPLE melting probe
  • Development of the probes navigation systems, mainly the sonar based forefield reconnaissance system
  • Development of the ground support equipment
  • Validation and demonstration of the systems in laboratory and field tests in alpine and polar glaciers

Preliminary work

Building acoustic navigation systems and melting probes has already been the task of the Physics Institute III B during projekt participations in EnEx or EnEx-RANGE. During these projects, localisation systems for melting probes up to fully autonomous melting probe networks have been built. These have been successfully demonstrated under different environmental conditions at alpine and polar glaciers.

Keine Fotobeschreibung verfügbar.
Scientists of the Physics Institute III B from the RWTH Aachen University starting a melting probe on the Langenferner glacier in the Italian Alps for a navigation demonstration during the EnEx-RANGE project.

Implementation steps

A first TRIPLE melting probe named the TRIPLE-IceCraft is currently in development in cooperation with the GSI GmbH. This probe will be demonstrated on the Ekström Ice Shelf at the station Neumayer-III in Antarctica in Jan/Feb 2022. There it will melt through the 200 m thick ice shelf into the underlying ocean and later return to the surface. This development is the basis for the final TRIPLE melting probe for greater ice depths (several kilometres) on the one hand and for extraterrestrial use on the other. TRIPLE-IceCraft will have a modular structure in order to be able to transport any scientific payload. Standardized payload segments can be integrated into TRIPLE-IceCraft. In this way, the nanoAUV will later be deployed into subglacial lakes.  

The sonar system is developed in the joint projekt TRIPLE-FRS (Forefield Reconnaissance System). It is the goal to provide a combination of sonar and radar to access the strengths of both localization principles. The Physics Institute III B contributes the sonar based subsystem. Thereto a transducer is integrated into the melting head of the probe. The functionality of an early transducer for the FRS will be tested during a field test on an alpine glacier in mid of 2021. Results from this test will enter the development of the final FRS system before its demonstration in 2023.

Points of Contact

Prof. Dr. Christopher Wiebusch
Dr. Dirk Heinen

Website of the Physics Institute III B