The Rocks and Geomaterials Lab studies rocks and material resources to marshal environmental solutions for fluid injection and storage in the Earth’s underground, energy sources, and manufacturing processes.
Our research seeks to understand rocks, and the derived porous geomaterials, in terms of behavior and properties. We conduct laboratory experiments that mimic Earth processes under controlled conditions, and integrate measurements as well as imaging techniques to quantify textural and physical properties.
This knowledge is crucial to minimize humanity’s impact on the natural environment.
Research Focus Areas
Earth Processes and Rock Properties
Studying rock physics and chemistry is foundational to our understanding of Earth — the materials from which it is made, the structure-derived properties, and the processes that continuously cycle energy and matter through the different Earth's environments. Our research focuses on studying the response of rock properties to processes within the Earth’s crust. Processes include chemical, mechanical, and thermal stimuli created in the laboratory, and serve the purpose of mimicking the solid-fluid interactions that continuously drive the evolution of our Planet.
Geoengineering the Subsurface
Fluid injection and storage are crucial players in the future energy landscape to mitigate GHG emissions and meet the continuous demand of consumers. Carbon dioxide's injection technologies are being explored to quickly reduce emissions through reuse or permanent mineralization underground. Similarly, subsurface rocks are being explored to provide storage capacity of energy from renewable sources so as to address the strong natural fluctuations of the supply. Any of these technologies needs experimentation to ensure efficacy and safety of the outcome, and promote a wider public acceptance.
How does Earth do chemistry? And how does Earth's chemistry do mechanics? These questions have become of fundamental importance to engineering processes that take advantage of Earth’s making capabilities and the structures it creates to produce more sustainable materials. Reactions underground use environmentally benign rock materials and a solvent like water, which is very powerful especially under hydrothermal temperatures. We are studying rock micro- and nanostructures and processes to make the most out of Earth's resources and functions, and sustainably advance us as civilization.
Flow Stimulation in Tight Rocks
Energy extraction from tight shale and geothermal reservoirs is among the solutions that can help further mitigate GHG emissions from our energy system. Nonetheless, fluid production requires technologies capable of stimulating sufficient permeability of natural geologic formations without causing harm to the surrounding environment. We are studying the controls on fluid flow development through different types of stimulation practices with the aim of making the fullest use of the rock reservoir volumes while reducing induced seismicity.