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CREEP Report Summary

Project ID: 642029
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CREEP (Complex RhEologies in Earth dynamics and industrial Processes)

Reporting period: 2015-04-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The word CREEP has multiple meanings, but in the Innovative Training Network CREEP it stands for Complex RhEologies in Earth and industrial Processes. Rheology (from the Greek ρειν, “to flow”) is the study of how a material deforms in response to applied forces. In industry, knowledge of rheology is key for producing high-performance materials. In Earth Sciences, the rheology of rocks controls the dynamics of our planet. Rheology is also critical in many fields of Earth Sciences that have a direct societal impact. Knowledge of how rocks react when stressed and how they heal afterwards is essential to understand faults dynamics and estimate earthquakes and tsunami hazard. This knowledge is also essential to predict and control seismicity associated with energy production activities, to develop clean energy production methods, like geothermics, and to establish safe natural reservoirs for chemical and radioactive waste.

The objective of the CREEP research program is to advance our understanding of the complex rheology of Earth and industrial materials and its consequences for our planet dynamics, from the global deformation to natural or human-induced seismicity, and for industrial uses of rock-like materials. To fulfil this aim, we use a multidisciplinary and multi-scale approach, which associates observations, experiments, and numerical and laboratory modelling in mineral physics, rock mechanics, tectonics, seismology, and geodynamics, spanning a wide range of spatial scales, from the nanoscale to global mantle dynamics.

- structures the collaboration in research and doctoral training between 10 academic centres in Earth Sciences and 11 partner organizations whose activity encompasses a wide range of fundamental studies and industrial applications in the domain of rheology (chemical industries, glass, steel, fuel exploration, high technology SMEs), bringing together in-depth expertise from six European countries.
- provides training to 16 early stage researchers via a structured program of cross-disciplinary collaborative research, specialized short courses, workshops, practical activities, and secondments in the industrial partners. This experience-based training is centred on research projects leading to a PhD, which focus on the rheology of Earth materials and its implications for geodynamic and industrial processes. The projects cover a large spectrum of applications: from the study of the deformation of the Earth surface and interior to energy production and industrial processes.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Explanation of the work carried per WP.

WP1. Experimental characterization of rheology

In this WP we characterize, using laboratory experiments, the rheology of key materials for the Earth dynamics and for industrial applications (exploration, waste storage, or glass industry). Most notable results to date are:
- new data on transient creep behaviour of olivine-rich rocks;
- successful use of noise interferometry to image the exploration-induced deformation in a gas field;
- new constraints on the role of deformation on the storage properties of rock-salt;
- new data on the active processes and mechanical behaviour of fault rocks during earthquakes;
- data on the mechanical behaviour of industrial glasses at high pressure;
- constraints on the effect of pressure on fault healing via the analysis of the associated seismic recovery.

WP2. Laboratory modelling of complex rheologies

In this WP we develop physical models and define new analog materials to study the effect of the complex rheology of Earth materials on the planet dynamics at small (faults, dikes, diapirs) and large (plates, mantle convection) scales. Most notable results to date are:
- a global database of seafloor roughness and seismogenic behaviour in subduction zones;
- scaling laws of the dynamics of subduction allowing to characterize the velocities of the plates and the style of deformation of the overriding plate.

WP3. Numerical modelling of complex rheologies

In this WP we develop a new generation of numerical models for studying the effects of history-dependent rheologies and of complex feedbacks on the deformation at different scales, from mantle convection and plate tectonics to hydrothermal fields. Most notable results to date are:
- development of an effective parameterisation of the mechanical anisotropy due to the orientation of olivine crystals in the mantle;
- extension of the capabilities of the parallel software package LaMEM, allowing the simulation of wave propagation in heterogeneous 3D elastoplastic media;
- new constraints on the physical properties of the Large Low Shear Velocity provinces in the deep mantle based on convection models with a time-evolving rheology;
- models of the interactions between long- and short-term (seismic) deformation in transform faults.

WP4. Seismological investigations of deformation and rheology

In this WP we develop seismological methods to indirectly study the deformation of the Earth. Most notable results to date are:
- new data on the structure of the lowermost mantle beneath the Atlantic;
- new models to predict the seismic anisotropy of salt structures in sedimentary basins;
- development of seismic methods to study fracture compliance.

WP.5 Training

This WP comprises both a personalized follow-up of all ESRs career development plans and network-wide activities. Its objective is to form a new generation of creative entrepreneurial and innovative researchers, by conveying theoretical and practical training in state-of-the-art concepts and leading-edge techniques in Earth Sciences and related disciplines, and by providing strong organizational, presentation, team-building, networking, and management skills, as well as an experience in the private sector and solid professional connections. The 2 workshops and 4 courses planned for this period were successfully organized. Many secondments have also already started, strengthening inter-institutional collaboration.

WP6. Public engagement

The CREEP ESRs attended 10 international conferences, where they presented 2 orals and 23 posters. They also led or participated to a range of outreach activities. They visited schools in Netherlands and Italy, created blogs sharing their experience, contributed with articles to the EGU and to the AGU websites, and created and presented experiments on volcanoes deformation, mantle convection, and georadar sensing in science events in France, Switzerland, and Germany.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The main impact of the ITN CREEP will be to:
- contribute to the formation of a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative young researchers;
- enhance the intersectoral dimension of the doctoral/early stage training in Earth Sciences in Europe;
- advance our understanding of how the complex rheology of Earth and industrial materials controls their mechanical behaviour and the associated economic or societal impacts; 

- sensitize researchers to their responsibility in making scientific research and its outcomes understood by the society; 

- promote scientific careers among young Europeans.

These objectives have been successfully fulfilled to date. Our training/dissemination impact has been enhanced by effective exchanges with other EU projects, like EPOS and other ITNs in Earth Sciences.

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