CORDIS - EU research results

the role of Stress History on the EARthquake potential of faults

Project description

Shaking up our knowledge of earthquakes

Tectonic seismic events – earthquakes – occur due to the sudden release of stored energy (fault loading) along a fault plane. This energy can be the result of compression (load strengthening) or extension (i.e. load weakening) at the boundaries between tectonic plates. Both deform the rocks surrounding the fault plane as energy builds up, but differently. Less is known about load weakening, which is why the EU-funded SHEAR project will undertake a laboratory investigation using deformation equipment and acoustic techniques. The integration of results into microphysical models and field study data will facilitate future upscaled experimentation. Ultimately, the project will reap improved understanding of tectonic fault processes.


The extent to which earthquake phenomena can be accurately assessed ultimately depends on how well the underlying physical processes are understood. Earthquake physics is primarily controlled by fault frictional properties and fluid pressure, which have been widely tested in laboratory rock deformation experiments. During the last 50 years, these experiments have provided fundamental contributions to our understanding of earthquake physics. However, in most experiments, the fault is loaded toward earthquake-slip under constant effective normal stress or via an increase in effective normal stress, i.e. load-strengthening. Nonetheless, numerous natural faults are affected by a reduction in effective normal stress during tectonic loading, i.e. load-weakening, and this condition is dominant in induced earthquakes due to fluid-injections in modern energy production. Further, along mature fault zones characterized by a thick damage zone and fault core, load-weakening likely promotes fault dilation, instead of compaction, with strong implications for fault hydro-mechanical behaviour. With SHEAR, I propose to fill this knowledge gap via laboratory experiments designed specifically to investigate the influence of loading path, and in particular the load-weakening path in fault physics, taking advantage of a world-class deformation apparatus. Laboratory results will be integrated with acoustic techniques to shed light on the physical processes at play and inform microphysical models that, coupled with field studies, will allow for the upscaling of experiments and provide a broader comprehensive picture of tectonic faulting. For the SHEAR action, the experience I acquired during my Post-Doc at EPFL (Switzerland) will be fundamental. The vibrant research environment in Sapienza will give me the possibility to acquire new scientific and transferable skills, ensuring me a competitive scientific profile to successfully apply for positions in academia, public and private sectors.

Funding Scheme



Net EU contribution
€ 172 750,08
Piazzale Aldo Moro 5
00185 Roma

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Centro (IT) Lazio Roma
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data