Scientists named a new invention after a TSU student

Tomsk State University staff have received a patent for a device to extract drilling equipment from ice when it breaks through. Glaciologists studying glacier melting sometimes face this situation. The new device has been given the unofficial name "Margo." The device was named after Margarita Solomakhi, a student of the TSU Faculty of Geology and Geography, who saved the expedition from losing expensive equipment on the Left Aktru glacier in 2023.

“We worked on the Left Aktru at an altitude of 3,200 meters, drilling holes to install a rack net,” said Alexander Erofeev, head of the expedition and head of the Glacioclimatology Laboratory at TSU. “The rack net is necessary to assess how the glacier loses and accumulates mass. It utilized a drill of six augers that are manually fastened together. For some reason, the lowest auger and the drill head detached. We had only half an hour to save the expensive equipment, which was custom-made in another country. After that time, the drill would have frozen into the hole.”

The glaciologists did not have any devices to grasp and extract the detached part. To find a suitable device, it was necessary to return from the glacier to the base, spending at least seven hours. At the same time, the chances of saving the equipment were already zero.

“While we were wondering what to do, Margarita Solomakha, the youngest member of the expedition, a second-year student of the Faculty of Geology and Geography, took a rope, made a lasso-like loop at the end, and after many attempts managed to extract the auger with the drilling head from the grip of the ice,” Alexander Erofeev added. “When Margo lifted her ‘catch’, everyone froze in suspense. We can say that she saved not only the equipment, but also the next expeditions, as it is almost impossible to make the same drill now.”

TSU team on the Left Aktru glacier. Margarita Solomakha is third from the left

Glacioclimatology Laboratory

After returning from Aktru, the team began developing a device for extracting drill augers from the ice. Dmitry Gureev, an operator of the multimedia center of TSU's Division of Information Policy, who has extensive experience climbing mountains and glaciers and often accompanies long-distance expeditions, proposed the idea of a coupling that fixes the auger and snaps into place. In 2023, the team filed an application with the Federal Intellectual Property Service.

“We recently received a patent that lists Margarita Solomakha as one of the authors, and the development was unofficially named ‘Margo’ after her,” said Dmitry Gureev. “I am sure that Margarita will have more interesting expeditions in the future. She is a very valuable member of the team, as she has not only the necessary relevant expertise, but also experience of tourist and mountaineering ascents, and she knows well how to work with mountaineering equipment.”

The Left Aktru glacier appeared because of the disintegration of the Big Aktru glacier (in the 1960s it strongly retreated and split into two independent glaciers — Left and Right). TSU glaciologists study the Left Aktru, which is the only reference glacier in North Asia. Using the data obtained from it, they calibrate their models and make predictions on how the climate of the high mountains and water resources will change. The glaciologists then send the data on glacier balance changes to the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich.

The study of glacier melting is part of a large strategic project Global Earth Change: Climate, Ecology, Quality of Life, which the Tomsk State University implements as part of the federal program Priority-2030.