Tectonic Modelling Laboratory (TecLab)

The Tectonic Modelling Laboratory (TecLab) is the main analogue research facility of the Tectonics research group, and a key piece of infrastructure in the Earth Simulation Laboratory (ESL) of the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University (UU). Advanced scaled physical analogue models are used to quantify and understand multi-scale, multi-physics processes that occur in the Earth’s crust and lithosphere, and their importance for and contribution to societal-relevant issues such as natural hazards or geo-resources. The TecLab envisions a continuing leading position in the international analogue modelling community, which will be pursued by developing new methodologies and initiating novel research with a focus on fundamental science linked to societal needs.

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Research conducted in the TecLab aims at improving our fundamental understanding of geological and tectonic processes from a material physics perspective. Examples of relevant processes are the evolution of subduction systems, intra-plate deformation, formation of continent-continent collision zones, sedimentary basins evolution, or formation and evolution of faults. The TecLab envisions the strengthening of its leading position in the international analogue modelling community. This vision is being pursued by development of a multi-scale quantitative understanding of processes in new methodologies and research lines.

New methodologies

New methodologies will aim at improving the 4D quantitative description of deformation structures created by tectonic or non-tectonic processes (gravity driven, induced) on multiple scales needed for process-oriented analysis of experimental results. We will focus on the design and implementation of non-invasive high-resolution monitoring methods, such as CAT scanning and laser vibrometry seismic acquisition, and development of advanced post-processing techniques such as 3D digital image correlation techniques.

New research lines

New research lines will aim for a quantitative understanding and prediction of Earth system behaviour, employing novel approaches for a complementary and integrative use of analogue and numerical modelling techniques. Examples include:

  • kinematic and dynamic data from densely instrumented experiments will be used for the application of ML (machine learning) and AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms for advanced processing, interpretation and optimisation of experimental results. These techniques will improve model predictions and finding fundamental scaling relations describing the evolution of the modelled system.
  • understanding faults and fault system behaviour required for the sustainable use and management of the sub-surface in the geo-energy and geo-resources transition, as well as natural and induced geo-hazards.

Research in the TecLab is sustained through the long-term involvement in a wide range of national and international research projects and programs (e.g. Triassic North; EU-Subitop; EU-GEMEX) and a strong embedding in (inter-) national infrastructure programmes, such as European Plate Observing System (EPOS) and EPOS-NL.