Saturday, November 22, 2008

Helicopter could predict volcanic eruptions

A SCOT who invented a remote control helicopter that can be used to predict where volcanic eruptions will take place has won a $100,000 (£67,000) award.

Dr Andrew McGonigle, a physicist, thinks the helicopter, which is flown over the crater of volcanoes, could be used across the world to help save millions of lives.It is fitted with technology that tests for carbon dioxide in the air above the volcano, which is usually released weeks, if not months, before the molten magma erupts to the surface.Until now, the process of measuring the gases from volcanoes to predict when they will erupt has been dangerous.Scientists have had to get close to the volcano, using devices such as sensors attached to the rim of the crater.

However, the helicopter can be operated miles from the site, meaning that no lives need be put at risk.Dr McGonigle, 35, was last night awarded a Laureate of the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise. The senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield, who grew up in Edinburgh, received the award at a ceremony in Dubai. He was chosen, with four others, from nearly 1,500 applicants in 127 countries.

Other winners included Andrew Muir, from South Africa, who is helping Aids orphans get jobs in his country's ecotourism sector, and Elsa Zaldívar, from Paraguay, who is creating building materials made from plant and plastic waste.

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