Campus Box 1169
1 Brookings Dr
Saint Louis MO 63130-4899
Experimental Rock Deformation & Structural Geology
Professor Skemer studies the physical properties of Earth and planetary materials using a combination of laboratory experimentation and structural geology. Understanding the physical properties of rocks is essential to our understanding of many phenomena in Earth, from faulting and shear localization to plate tectonics and mantle convection.
Deforming rocks experimentally requires a number of specialized tools to generate the requisite large forces and high temperatures. Typically, force is generated using a hydraulic or pneumatic actuator; high temperatures are generated using a resistance-heated furnace (much like a household toaster). The rock deformation lab at Washington University in Saint Louis currently has a Griggs-type apparatus, which is capable of deforming materials at pressures up to 2 GPa and temperatures up to ~1300 C, at strain-rates of 10-4 to 10-6 s-1. A second apparatus is in development, which will allow deformation of materials to larger strains by using a torsion geometry, at pressures of up to 6 GPa.
An essential component of studying rock rheology is microstructural analysis. A major interest of Professor Skemer’s is the way that evolving microstructures influence macroscopic rheology. Using a relatively new technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) we are now able to investigate microstructures in extraordinary detail. We have recently installed a new EBSD system in the Center for Materials Innovation at Wash U.
A Griggs apparatus for deforming rocks. Experimental deformation of coarse grained dunite.