seal  Purdue News

September 16, 2003

Purdue research team hunts coal clues

Mountains may spell peace and relaxation to some, but a Purdue University group spent much of the summer in one of the most unstable and earthquake-prone mountain ranges on the continent, conducting research that could lead to better knowledge of where coal deposits lie.

Purdue's Ken Ridgway took a group of students to the heart of the Alaska Range to examine the relationship between growing mountains and the coal that is often found nearby. His work as an earth scientist concerns geological forces that not only can dramatically change the face of our planet, but also are responsible for creating coal.

"The same subterranean pressure that raises mountains also squeezes decaying plant matter into coal deposits," said Ridgway, professor of earth sciences in the School of Science. "Studying North America's most active growing mountain range may help us to understand how to find coal deposits like those that lie near the Appalachians and northern Rockies."

Coal is still one of the most commonly used fossil fuels worldwide. About 40 percent of the world's electricity and 70 percent of its steel production depend on coal energy. Far East countries, such as South Korea, purchase much of Alaska's coal and have a vested interest in finding new seams.

CONTACT: Ridgway, (765) 494-3269,

Writer: Chad Boutin, (765) 494-2081,