Earth Simulation Laboratory

With the Earth Simulation Laboratory, Utrecht University has created one of the world's largest experimental laboratories for research into the physical behaviour of the Earth. The ESL enables our researchers to simulate and examine processes in the interior of the Earth and on the Earth’s surface with an unprecedented degree of detail and precision.


The ESL holds an important part of the large-scale Dutch research infrastructure EPOS-NL. EPOS is short for European Plate Observing System. It is connected to a European programme involving 47 institutes and 22 European countries that aim for trans-national access to facilities and data.

The ESL houses the following main units:

Experimental flumes

Here, river and coastal systems are studied, as well as sediment transport across sea and ocean floors. Simulations vary from very short events to basin stratigraphy on geological time scales.

  • tilting flume Metronome, 20 x 3.0 x 0.4 m
  • Debris flow flume
  • Eurotank, 6.5 x 13 m
  • wave and current flume, 18 x 0.4 x 0.6 m
  • tilting flume, 3.5 x 1.2 x 0.25 m
  • turbidite flume (in development)

High Pressure & Temperature lab (HPT)

The HPT laboratory is equipped with a wide variety of facilities to study behaviour of rock in the underground. These involve apparatus for deformation of rock samples at high pressure and temperature, high temperature furnaces, and apparatus for thermal, microstructural and IR analysis.

Tectonic modelling laboratory (TecLab)

In the TecLab, "scaled analogue models" are used to better understand large scale tectonic deformation processes, such as the breakup of the Earth's crust or the formation of mountain ranges.


  • A number of specialist microscopes used for e.g. paleoecology, biostratigraphy, petrology, structural geology
  • A digital petrographic microscope lab & classroom

Electronics and mechanics workshops

For custom development and maintenance work on field and laboratory instrumentation.


The Geo-repository contains a scientifically valuable collection of samples collected during many field studies, both on land and during major international seafaring expeditions since the early 20th century. These samples contain a wealth of information about the development of Earth and life on Earth, including the climate in past and present. The collection is distributed over dry storage, cool storage, and freeze storage.

Field equipment

  • Coring equipment: e.g., Edelman hand augers, Van der Staay suction corers, gauges, various custom-built hand corers, piston corer on floating platform
  • Surveying equipment: e.g., 3D laser scanner system suitable for mobile and stationary use, rc airplane for aerial photography, RTK-GPS systems, handheld GPS’s, levelling equipment
  • Field instrumentation, available separate or as integrated package: e.g., datalogger systems, acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP), acoustic doppler velocity meters (ADV), electromagnetic flow meters (EMF), echosounder, 3D profiling sonar, acoustic backscatter profiler (ABS), optical backscatter sensors (OBS), tide gauges, wave gauges, meteo stations, rainfall simulators
  • Logistics: e.g., personal protective equipment, 4WD terrain car plus trailer, quad plus trailer, Zodiac raft with outboard motor