From crystals to mountains: the Multi-scale laboratories Thematic Core Service (TCS)

You are here


Elisa Calignano

WP16 co-ordinator, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Working Package 16 Team

The EPOS Newsletter issue 01
January 2017 | Article 03

Figure 1 - Analogue modelling apparatus at the Tectonic Modelling Laboraty of Utrecht University.jpg
Figure-2 - Analogue-model-of-a-mountain-belt
Figure 3 - Geochemistry_Lab_ICTJA-CSIC
Figure 4 - INGV Paleomagnetic Laboratory
Figure 5 - NERC-BGS Rock Mechanics and Physics laboratory
Figure 6 - XRD_Lab_ICTJA-CSIC
Figure 7 - Paleomagnetism_Lab_ICTJA-CSIC

Figure-2 - Analogue-model-of-a-mountain-belt

Figure 3 - Geochemistry_Lab_ICTJA-CSIC

Figure 4 - INGV Paleomagnetic Laboratory


The study of complex Earth system phenomena requires an approach that combines different spatial and temporal scales. For example, the catastrophic effects of an earthquake that lasts a few seconds, are intimately linked to the previous millions of years of geological history and to the properties of nanometre scale minerals within the fault zone.

Laboratory facilities are an integral part of Earth science research. The diversity of methods employed in such infrastructures reflects the multi-scale nature of the Earth system and is essential for the understanding of its evolution, for the assessment of geo-hazards and for the sustainable exploitation of geo-resources.

High-quality datasets, produced within Earth science laboratories, have potential value for secondary use in science, teaching and outreach. They could be of crucial importance for the exploration of geo-resources, geo-storage, geo-hazards and for the understanding of the earth system evolution in general.

The Thematic Core Service (TCS) Multi-scale laboratories (Working Package 16), will harmonize and structure the available and emerging laboratory data on the properties and processes controlling rock system behaviour at all relevant scales, and create services to support lab-based solid Earth research. 

The Multi-scale laboratories community in EPOS

As a part of the EPOS project, Working Package 16 represents a developing community of European Geoscience Multi-scale laboratories.

The participant and collaborating institutions (Utrecht University, GFZ, University of RomaTre, INGV, NERC, CSIC, CNRS, CNR*) embody several types of laboratory infrastructures, engaged in different fields of interest of Earth Science: from high temperature and pressure experimental facilities, to electron microscopy, micro-beam analysis, analogue modelling and paleomagnetic laboratories.

The length scales encompassed by these infrastructures range from the nano- and micrometre levels (electron microscopy and micro-beam analysis) to the scale of experiments on centimetres-sized samples, and to analogue model experiments simulating the reservoir scale, the basin scale and the plate scale.

TCS Multi-scale laboratories objectives

The network of participating partners has four main aims: 1) to increase the coherence of the fragmented European experimental community, 2) to enhance the long-term sustainability of laboratories, 3) to strengthen existing collaborations and encourage new partnerships and 4) work towards the standardization of data and data products.

Most data produced by the various laboratory centres and networks are presently available only in limited “final form” in publications, many data remain inaccessible and/or poorly preserved.

The TCS Multi-scale laboratories will collect and harmonize available and emerging laboratory data on the properties and process controlling rock system behaviour at multiple scales, in order to generate products accessible and interoperable through services for supporting research activities into Geo-resources and Geo-storage, Geo-hazards and Earth System Evolution.

Moreover, a large part of the working package effort will be dedicated to co-ordinate the framework for the development, integration and trans-national usage of the major solid Earth Science laboratory centres and specialists networks. The groups and lab facilities will be made visible in the EPOS Portal, together with information on trans-national access rules.

Building a novel digital infrastructure for laboratory data

EPOS represents an unprecedented opportunity to create a digital infrastructure to share and analyse Earth science laboratories data. After the first meeting during the EPOS-IP kick-off in Rome (October 2015), the multi-scale labs community started working hard on the huge challenge of building the necessary digital infrastructure from scratch. Aware of the heterogeneity of the data and metadata coming from the different laboratories and related disciplines, most of the team effort was dedicated so far to the development of a uniform, cross-disciplinary metadata scheme that would allow the researchers to share their datasets in an easy and effective way. At the end of the first year of EPOS-IP the metadata schema for three pilot cases (analogue modelling, paleomagnetism and rock physics) is in place and, after two successful meetings during the summer, the community is now working toward the development and implementation of the necessary IT infrastructures. The next step will be populating the infrastructure with datasets and make them visible and accessible through the EPOS ICS.

Multi-scale laboratories application areas

The Multi-scale laboratories infrastructures are grouped into four main proposed application areas: Analogue modelling, Paleomagnetism, HPT experimental laboratories and analytical laboratories.

Analogue modelling laboratories (RomaTre, GFZ, UU, CNR*, CNRS)

Will provide data on a) tectonic processes, from the plate to the reservoir scale, b) analogue material properties and c) visualizing and data analysis tools useful for understanding of Earth dynamics, geo-hazards and geo-energy.

Analytical laboratories

Will provide physical and chemical properties on a) volcanic ash from eruption (INGV, LMU, CSIC, CNR*), b) magmas (LMU, INGV, CSIC, CNR*) and c) rock systems (UBI, CSIC, CNR*) useful for aviation industry, meteorological and government institutes.

Paleomagnetic laboratories

Will provide access to paleomagnetic data repository (INGV, CNRS, CSIC, RM3, UU) useful for understanding the evolution of sedimentary basins and associated resources and for charting geo-hazard frequency.

Rock physics laboratories

Will provide experimental data on rock properties for a) natural/induced subsidence, seismicity and hazards (INGV, NERC, UU), b) capacity of rock systems for geo-storage (NERC, UBI, UU), c) crustal and upper mantle rheology (ETH, UU) and d) properties of reservoir rocks (NERC, INGV, ETH, UU) useful for mineral exploration and mining operation, modelling sedimentary basin formation and crustal stress distribution, unconventional resources and geothermal energy.