dr. Oliver Plümper
Assistant Professor
Earth Sciences - Structural geology & EM
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Oliver's research interest span the fields of fluid-rock interaction, nano(geo)science, mineral physics and rock deformation. He approaches his research questions through an interdisciplinary approach of field work, experiments, micro- and nanoanalytics and theory. He is also involved in the Utrecht University Electron Microscopy Square, that hosts a variety of state-of-the-art electron microscopes. If you like to collaborate using Oliver's expertise in electron microscopy please contact him directly via email.

Latest publications:

Plümper et al. (2017) Subduction zone forearc serpentinites as incubators for deep microbial life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

UU press release about PNAS publication.

Plümper et al. (2017) Fluid escape from subduction zones controlled by channel-forming reactive porosity. Nature Geoscience.

UU press release about Nature Geoscience publication.

Liu et al. (2016) Nano-tomography of porous geological materials using focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy. Minerals. (open access)



Media reports about potential life in subduction zone forearcs

National Geographic

Spiegel Online (German magazine)

Media reports about the 'hidden rivers' in the deep subsurface.

Elsevier magazine

German radio (RBB Kulturzeit)

Media reports about IODP 360 'Expedition to the Moho' in which Oliver participated.

BBC news

Nature news

Der Westen (interview with Oliver Plümper about his time on the Joides Resolution)

Strategic themes / Focus areas
Involved in the following study programme(s)
Scientific expertise
electron microscopy
rock deformation
fluid-mineral interface physics

Complex patterns of fluid escape channels on a scale of meters (left), centimeters (middle) and nanometers (right). Please see Oliver's latest Nature Geoscience publication.
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Curriculum vitae

Since January 2013: Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

June 2012 -  December 2012: PostDoc at the Center for Physics of Geological Processes (PGP), University of Oslo, Norway.

January 2009 – June 2012: PhD student and Marie Curie Fellow at the Center for Physics of Geological Processes (PGP), University of Oslo, Norway.

October 2006 – December 2008: Master of Science in Earth Science at University of Münster, Germany.

April 2003 – September 2006: Bachelor of Science in Earth Science at University of Münster, Germay

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All publications
  2016 - Scholarly publications
Sawai, M., Niemeijer, A.R., Plümper, O., Hirose, T. & Spiers, C.J. (2016). Nucleation of frictional instability caused by fluid pressurization in subducted blueschist. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, (pp. 2543-2551).
  2016 - Other output
O. Plümper (09.01.2016). Article about IODP 360 and my participation in this expedition. Boren Waar Niemand Ooit Heeft Geboord.
O. Plümper (23.01.2016). Media article in German newspaper about my participation in IODP 360. „Eine Mischung aus Technologie und Magie“; Wissenschaftler Oliver Plümper untersucht auf einem Forschungsschiff die Geheimnisse des Erdinneren.
  2015 - Scholarly publications
Maffione, Marco, Thieulot, Cedric, van Hinsbergen, Douwe J.J., Morris, Antony, Plümper, Oliver & Spakman, Wim (2015). Dynamics of intraoceanic subduction initiation - 1. Oceanic detachment fault inversion and the formation of supra-subduction zone ophiolites. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 16 (6), (pp. 1753-1770).
Oelkers, Eric H., Benning, Liane G., Lutz, Stefanie, Mavromatis, Vasileios, Pearce, Christopher R. & Plümper, O. (01.11.2015). The efficient long-term inhibition of forsterite dissolution by common soil bacteria and fungi at earth surface conditions. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 168, (pp. 222-235).
Spagnuolo, Elena, Plümper, Oliver, Violay, Marie, Cavallo, Andrea & Di Toro, Giulio (10.11.2015). Fast-moving dislocations trigger flash weakening in carbonate-bearing faults during earthquakes. Scientific Reports, 5.
van Hinsbergen, Douwe J.J., Peters, Kalijn, Maffione, Marco, Spakman, Wim, Guilmette, Carl, Thieulot, Cedric, Plümper, Oliver, Gürer, Derya, Brouwer, Fraukje M., Aldanmaz, Ercan & Kaymakçi, N. (2015). Dynamics of intraoceanic subduction initiation - 2. Suprasubduction zone ophiolite formation and metamorphic sole exhumation in context of absolute plate motions. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 16 (6), (pp. 1771-1785).
Van Hoesel, Annelies, Hoek, Wim Z., Pennock, Gillian M., Kaiser, Knut, Plümper, Oliver, Jankowski, Michal, Hamers, Maartje F., Schlaak, Norbert, Küster, Mathias, Andronikov, Alexander V. & Drury, Martyn R. (2015). A search for shocked quartz grains in the Allerød-Younger Dryas boundary layer. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 50 (3), (pp. 483-498).
  2014 - Scholarly publications
King, Helen E., Mattner, Dorothea C., Plümper, Oliver, Geisler, Thorsten & Putnis, Andrew (07.07.2014). Forming cohesive calcium oxalate layers on marble surfaces for stone conservation. Crystal Growth and Design, 14 (8), (pp. 3910-3917) (8 p.).
Maffione, M., Morris, A., Plümper, O. & van Hinsbergen, D.J.J. (2014). Magnetic properties of variably serpentinized peridotites and their implication for the evolution of oceanic core complexes. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 15 (4), (pp. 923-944) (22 p.).
Plümper, Oliver, Beinlich, Andreas, Bach, Wolfgang, Janots, Emilie & Austrheim, Håkon (15.09.2014). Garnets within geode-like serpentinite veins - Implications for element transport, hydrogen production and life-supporting environment formation. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 141, (pp. 454-471) (18 p.).
Verberne, B.A., Spiers, C.J., Niemeijer, A.R., de Bresser, J.H.P., de Winter, D.A.M. & Plümper, O. (2014). Frictional properties and microstructure of calcite-rich fault gouges sheared at sub-seismic sliding velocities. Pure and Applied Geophysics, 171, (pp. 2617-2640) (24 p.).
Verberne, Berend A., Plümper, Oliver, de Winter, D.A. Matthijs & Spiers, Christopher J. (2014). Superplastic nanofibrous slip zones control seismogenic fault friction. Science, 346 (6215), (pp. 1342-1344).
  2013 - Scholarly publications
Verberne, B.A., de Bresser, J.H.P., Niemeijer, A.R., Spiers, C.J., de Winter, D.A.M. & Plümper, O. (2013). Nanocrystalline slip zones in calcite fault gouge show intense crystallographic preferred orientation - Crystal plasticity at sub-seismic slip rates at 18–150 °C. Geology, 41 (8), (pp. 863-866) (4 p.).
  2012 - Scholarly publications
Plümper, Oliver, King, Helen E., Vollmer, Christian, Ramasse, Quentin, Jung, Haemyeong & Austrheim, Håkon (01.04.2012). The legacy of crystal-plastic deformation in olivine - High-diffusivity pathways during serpentinization. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 163 (4), (pp. 701-724) (24 p.).
Plümper, Oliver, Piazolo, Sandra & Austrheim, Håkon (01.09.2012). Olivine pseudomorphs after serpentinized orthopyroxene record transient oceanic lithospheric mantle dehydration (Leka Ophiolite complex, Norway). Journal of Petrology, 53 (9), (pp. 1943-1968) (26 p.).
Plümper, Oliver, Røyne, Anja, Magrasó, Anna & Jamtveit, Bjørn (01.12.2012). The interface-scale mechanism of reaction-induced fracturing during serpentinization. Geology, 40 (12), (pp. 1103-1106) (4 p.).
  2011 - Scholarly publications
King, Helen E., Plümper, Oliver, Geisler, Thorsten & Putnis, Andrew (01.10.2011). Experimental investigations into the silicification of olivine - Implications for the reaction mechanism and acid neutralization. American Mineralogist, 96 (10), (pp. 1503-1511) (9 p.).
  2010 - Scholarly publications
King, Helen E., Plümper, Oliver & Putnis, Andrew (15.08.2010). Effect of secondary phase formation on the carbonation of olivine. Environmental Science and Technology, 44 (16), (pp. 6503-6509) (7 p.).
  2009 - Scholarly publications
Plümper, Oliver & Putnis, Andrew (23.06.2009). The complex hydrothermal history of granitic rocks - Multiple feldspar replacement reactions under subsolidus conditions. Journal of Petrology, 50 (5), (pp. 967-987) (21 p.).
  0 - Other output
O. Plümper (0). Building bridges: Interdisciplinary Physics-Chemistry-Earth Science Research on Energy . Sustainability Symposium.
O. Plümper (0). Channelized fluid escape from subduction zones. 1st TIGeR conference.
O. Plümper (0). Chemo-mechanical feedbacks during reactive fluid flow in low-permeability rocks.
O. Plümper (0). Lecture at Physics of Geological Processes, University of Oslo. The nanoscience of geological processes: from fault friction to reactive fluid flow.
O. Plümper (0). Low-temperature nanocatalysis of abiogenic methane during peridotite alteration. Workshop on Indian Ocean Crust and Mantle Drilling.
O. Plümper (0). Low-temperature Nanocatalysis of Abiogenic Methane during Peridotite Alteration. Goldschmidt 2015.
O. Plümper (0). Nanoscale transient porosity controls large-scale reactive fluid flow. International Conference on Flow in Transforming Porous Media.
O. Plümper (0). The NanoControl of Geological Processes. UAV Symposium 2015 on “Mineralogy”.
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Little grains, big impact: The nanoscale control of fault strength evolution during the seismic cycle
01.06.2016 to 30.05.2020
General project description 

Earthquakes constitute one of the most pronounced natural disasters affecting thousands to millions of people each year. To further improve seismic hazard evaluation it is of utmost importance to understand the underlying nucleation mechanisms that lead to seismicity and earthquakes. This is also of rapidly growing importance in the industrial sector where gas/oil extraction, deep geothermal energy production and underground storage of carbon dioxide leads to human-induced seismicity. Although earthquakes occur on very large scales the processes leading to them take place within fault rock volumes that are only several hundred microns to tens of millimetres in size. Recent studies focusing on these fault rocks have identified nanogranular and/or amorphous pulverized rock materials (fault rock gouge), where the nanoscale processes within these gouges may control the overall macroscopic deformation behaviour. Although, while the EU identified the “exploration of the nanoworld” as one of the new science and technology frontiers for the 21st century, no integrated approach has yet been undertaken to decipher the formation and deformation mechanisms of natural nanograins and their influence on the behaviour of fault rocks prone to nucleate earthquakes. The research project proposed here will use next-generation nano-analytical techniques to decipher the nanoscale processes within fault zones to develop a mechanism-based understanding of how the behaviour of nanograins may influence the macroscopic behaviour of fault rocks thus processes leading to seismicity and earthquakes.

Role Co-promotor & Project Leader Funding
NWO grant: open competition PhD grant
Project members UU
Fluid-mineral interface physics
01.06.2013 to 31.05.2017
General project description 
Role Researcher Funding
Other grant (government funding): Shell Research & Development
Project members UU

Completed projects

Reaction-induced fracturing and the force of crystallization: How fluids eat their way through impermeable rocks 01.10.2013 to 30.09.2016
General project description

The reactions of fluids with rocks are fundamental for Earth’s dynamics as they facilitate heat/mass transfer and induce volume changes, weaknesses and instabilities in rock masses that localises deformation enabling tectonic responses to plate motion. Fluid-rock interactions also play a key role in industries such as geothermal energy, hydrocarbon production and CO2 sequestration. However, most terrestrial rocks of geological and industrial importance have very low permeability suggesting that fluid migration through them should be nearly impossible. Nevertheless, considerable evidence from natural observations suggests that mineral reactions can ‘eat’ their way through rocks by generating permeable fracture networks, opening the solid rock reservoir to fluid-rock interaction. Little is known about the actual mechanism of this reaction-induced fracturing or the forces produced by (re-)crystallization, and whether such a system can be self-sustaining.

Role Project Leader Funding
NWO grant: Veni grant (Dutch young investigator grant)
Project members UU
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Currently dr. Oliver Plümper teaches the following course(s):








Earth Materials: From the Atomic to Planetary Scale





Veldwerk 2 Pyreneeen I - orogenese





Earth resources (lecture on nuclear waste disposal)




Guided research course

Introduction into electron microscopy




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Additional functions and activities

No additional functions

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Full name
dr. O. Plümper Contact details

Budapestlaan 4
Room N 106
The Netherlands

Phone number (direct) +31 30 253 1199
Phone number (department) +31 30 253 1199
Postal address
Postbus 80.021
3508 TA    UTRECHT
The Netherlands
Mo Tue Wed Thu Fr
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Last updated 12.04.2017