My research interest is in the experimental study of tectonic processes, in particular the mechanics and architecture of seismically active fault zones. In my project I am aiming to simulate the nucleation and propagation of earthquakes in centimetric sized rock samples, in the Rock mechanics lab in Durham. Understanding of this process is key in unraveling the complex chain of events that lead up to, and cause earthquakes in nature. A key aim of my thesis is to develop new equipment and experimental techniques, utilising acoustic sensors and strain gauges, which builds upon previous work by other authors. Therefore much of my initial work will be spent trialing and investigating new ideas. We will then use these new techniques to investigate the following questions:

  • How does the detail of the friction weakening curve depend on slip history and loading conditions and can we generalize this behaviour into a new set of rate and state equations?
  • What is the effect of geometrical complexities of the fault surface (kinks, bends, asperities) on the rupture propagation and on the radiated wavefield?
  • How do these results apply to natural microearthquakes (Nadeau and Johnson, 1998) with high stress-drop and how does it upscale to larger faults and larger magnitude quakes?
  • How do the microstructures compare to those found on exhumed natural faults?