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SPOTLIGHT

1. NATURAL GAS:

Tiny particles enlisted to tackle fracking's mysteries

Can magnetic nanoparticles injected deep underground with hydraulic fracturing liquids reveal detailed dimensions of shale rock fractures and track movements of gas molecules? Can other particles -- that change form when they encounter oil -- be "interrogated" for clues about the amounts of oil in dense shale formations? These are among the goals of the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC), headquartered at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin. It brings together university researchers and industry scientists seeking scientific breakthroughs that would remove some of the mystery in unconventional gas and oil development miles below ground. The 4-year-old venture has spent about $40 million so far.

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