Tectonic Modelling Laboratory (TecLab)
Curious to know why tectonic plates break apart, how mountain ranges are formed, or why some parts of continents go up while other parts go down?
In Utrecht University’s Tectonic Modelling laboratory (“TecLab”), which is embedded within the Tectonics research group, state-of-the-art scientific research is conducted to investigate the fundamental processes related to the large-scale deformation of the crust and lithosphere of the Earth.
Examples of such deformation processes are:
- the break-up of continents
- the formation of new oceans
- the building of new mountain ranges
These deformation processes are driven by the motion and interaction of tectonic plates over time scales of millions of years and occur at spatial scales ranging from a few kilometres up to thousands of kilometres.
Combination of experiments
To investigate these processes, factors and parameters, researchers in the TecLab adopt an innovative approach, in which geological field studies, numerical modelling methods and physical analogue laboratory experiments are integrated in a highly complementary way, thus eliminating methodological limitations and maximising the resolution (in space and time) and quality of the results.
The results of these integrative studies provide new critical information and data relevant for today’s society, such as, for instance, for the exploration for sustainable geo-energy resources (notably geothermal energy) in sedimentary basin systems, the mitigation of seismic hazards in densely populated urban areas, and the uplift and subsidence of continents affecting sea level.
Setting up analogue experiments is motivated by a lack of understanding of geologic phenomena. As such the work flow typically entails:
- gathering field data and observations
- developing a hypothesis to explain the observations
- setting up and running of analogue experiments to test the hypothesis
- interpretation of the modelling results and comparison with what we have seen in nature