Rapid Access Drill for Ice-Traction (RADIX)

Rapid Access Drill for Ice-Traction (RADIX)

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
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Dates / Project duration

July 2017 - June 2020 / 3 years

Field of action :

Study on climate change and its effects

Branch :


Location :

Greenland and Antarctica

Project sponsor(s) :

University of Bern



RADIX has two goals:

  1. Development of an innovative rapid access drill for polar ice core science;
  2. To obtain information for the site selection for the European deep drilling project in Antarctica "Oldest Ice - Beyond EPICA", which is aimed at recovering the climate history of the past 1.5 million years.

The drill collects in situ information throughout the depth of the Antarctic ice sheet in the most efficient way. Information such as temperature and dust content should enable to extract fundamental information on the flow conditions of the ice sheet at the drilling location and on the age of the deepest ice.

The innovation is to minimize the drill to 2 cm diameter and to use the drilling fluid for bore hole stabilization and engine propulsion (Schwander et al., 2014). The principle has been successfully tested in Greenland in summer 2015, and again in 2016. The small size of the drill increases mobility on the ice sheet and minimizes the environmental impact owing to a minimum amount of drilling liquid. Several locations can be drilled during one field season.

The next challenges for RADIX are the development of drilling fluid recycling and bore hole sensors. A first Antarctic field test is planned for the winter 2017/18, and routine operation to access four locations for site selection is envisaged for winter 2018/19. RADIX is the smallest and most efficient of several rapid access drilling systems that are currently developed internationally (Witze, 2015).