Our research is focussed on the analysis of small scale structures (see page with examples) in rocks such as folds, boudins, shear bands, porphyroclasts etc... Our aim is to understand the development of such structures and to use them as "tools" for the reconstruction of large scale tectonic settings. For example, the geometry and rotational component of ductile flow in rocks influences the geometry of small scale structures, and this geometry can therefore be used as a "kinematic indicator" to reconstruct the geometry of flow in rocks.
We study a large number of small-scale structures in selected areas with simple, well controlled deformation - here we obtain samples for microstructural analysis and test results of experiments.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to grow small scale structures with the material and under the same conditions as in real rocks; deformation in rocks is extremely slow, and a real-time experiment would last thousands or even millions of years !! Also, the high pressure and temperature conditions realized in deforming rocks are difficult to generate in large samples. Therefore, we specialize in two other lines of experiments:
- Here we try to mimic the development of small scale structures by deformation of rock analogue analogue materials at atmospheric pressure and low temperature in small presses under controlled conditions in the laboratory. Although these materials used in these experiments are not rocks, correct "scaling" can give useful results. New experiments include Sandbox models to study fault patterns and block rotations in the East African Rift System.
- Here we try to mimic the development of small scale structures by computer modeling where we simulate the conditions of rock deformation; in the computer, we can speed up the deformation process to "human" scale. We have developed new lithospheric scale models to study rift development and rift-flank uplift. If you are interested in our work, if you can contribute data or wish to participate in any of our projects, please contact us at one of our e-mail numbers.
One of the most interesting types of research is interdisciplinary work. We cooperate with archaeologists, historian, meteorologists, hydrologist, biologists and engineers to study carbonate deposits in Roman aqueducts. Such deposits are a natural archive with a layering that records ancient climate, water chemistry and biology and the effect of earthquakes. We study the microstructure , chemistry and isotope chemistry of sinter in Roman aqueducts in order to solve problems in archaeology and neotectonics, with spin-off data on palaeoclimate and historical engineering. We are expending this project to study over 1300 roman aqueducts throughout the mediterranean.
Development of "Intelligent GIS":
Together with the University of Toulouse and the geological Survey of Canada, we are developing software that will make ordinary GIS programs, which normally only serve to store geological data, into "intelligent" programs that can filter out geological errors before they are entered in the maps . This initiative is part of a larger research effort of Mainz University known as CARNS (computer assisted methods in the natural sciences)