John W. Handin Laboratory for Experimental Rock Deformation

The Handin Laboratory provides facilities to investigate the deformation of rock under controlled conditions appropriate to the environments of the upper crust to the lithospheric mantle. The laboratory is equipped with groups of different rock deformation apparatus, devices for measuring physical properties, controlled environment chambers, a rock repository, sample preparation equipment, and a machine shop. Graduate students, visiting scientists, research scientists, and faculty use the laboratory for research and teaching activities. The Handin Laboratory plays a key role in the laboratory component of the graduate core-curriculum courses of the Center for Tectonophysics (GEOP 615, Experimental Rock Deformation) and of the Ph.D. in Geophysics (GEOP 660, Physics of the Earth's Interior).

The Electrohydraulic Loading Facility

Three loading frames are available for testing rock at elevated temperature and pressure appropriate to both upper and lower crust conditions, and at displacement rates up to 1 m/s. The servo-controlled machines are particularly well suited for investigating complex load paths. The facility is currently being upgraded with a new hydraulic pressure generating pump, cooling system, and low-pressure hydraulic, water and air plumbing. In addition, new safety enclosures, high pressure plumbing, electronics for control and data acquisition, and other ancillary equipment will be installed. This facility houses:

  • A 500-ton servo-controlled, electrohydraulic testing machine (Large MTS) capable of deforming 2.5 by 6 cm cylindrical specimens in triaxial compression under controlled loading/deformation histories and Argon confining pressures and liquid pore fluid pressures to 1200 MPa and temperatures to 1200 C. This machine also may be used with other pressure vessels to deform larger samples at lower pressures and moderate temperatures.
  • A 150-ton servo-controlled, electrohydraulic testing machine (MTS) capable of deforming samples up to 2.5 cm diameter under confining pressures to 300 MPa, pore fluid pressures to 200 MPa, and temperatures to 300 C. The pore-fluid pressure system may be used in a flow-through or single-ended oscillating pressure mode to determine fluid flow and storage properties during deformation, and is ideal for the investigation of the mechanical behavior of both crystalline and sedimentary rocks in geothermal and petroleum-gas reservoirs.
  • Bi-axial load frame, with 150-ton servo-controlled load capability on each axis, that is capable of achieving medium strain rates (7 cm displacement at a rate of 1 m/s). This apparatus is being constructed from the MSR and HTR load frames, and will be used for high speed friction studies; it also may be fitted with other pressure vessels or sample grips to permit true-triaxial tests and high-speed fracture tests.

The High Pressure and Temperature "Creep" Facility

Five rock deformation machines are available for testing ductile deformation or rocks and minerals at very-high pressures as exist in the middle crust to upper mantle. The apparatus are designed to operate in both constant strain rate and constant stress loading modes. The facility includes the following apparatus:

  • Two variable strain-rate, triaxial compression, gas apparatus for deformation of 1 by 2 cm cylindrical specimens at confining and pore pressures to 1000 MPa, temperatures to 1000 C and strain rates from 10-3 to 10-8 sec^-1.
  • Two Griggs-Blacic solid-pressure medium systems for deformation of 6 by 15 mm specimens at confining pressures to 2000 MPa, temperatures to 1500 C, and strain rates from 10-3 to 10-8 sec-1.
  • Griggs, solid-pressure-medium, multiple anvil "cubic" apparatus capable of confining pressures to 7000 MPa and temperatures to 1600 C.

The Sediment and Sedimentary Rock Testing Facility

This facility contains several gear driven, triaxial apparatus designed for testing weaker rocks at upper crustal conditions. The rock deformation machines are capable of constant strain rate loading to low rates, and can accommodate fairly large samples.

  • Two 10-ton, variable strain-rate, triaxial systems (VSR) for deformation of 2 by 4 cm specimens at confining and pore pressures to 300 MPa, temperatures to 300 C and strain rates from 10-3 to 10-8 sec-1. The apparatus employ internal load cells for sensitive and accurate measurement of force. One system retains the original metal packings for higher pressure work; the other system is fitted with a large-diameter piston and o-ring packings for experemnts on weak rocks, sands, and marine sediments at confining pressures less than 120 MPa. This apparatus is ideal for longer term tests of creep consolidation and fluid flow properties.
  • Two 100-ton, variable strain-rate, triaxial compression systems for deforming 10 by 20 cm cylindrical specimens at confining and pore pressure to 70 MPa, temperatures to 150 C, and strain rates from 10-3 to 10-9 sec-1. These machines have been used for investigating creep of rock salt. An additional pressure vessel is available for tests on 5 by 10 cm cylindrical specimens in these load frames.
  • A 200-ton, variable strain-rate, triaxial-compression apparatus (LSR) for tests on specimens up to 5 cm diameter and 20 cm length at strain rates from 10-3 to 10-8 sec-1 at confining and pore-fluid pressures to 300 MPa at room temperature. The apparatus has accommodated studies of acoustic emission, permeability using the transient-pulse technique, fracture under mixed tensile and compressive stress states, rock and simulates gouge friction, failure in thick-walled hollow cylinders, and fracture and folding in rock models. This apparatus was decommissioned in spring 2009 and will be replaced in the future.

Petrophysics Facility

This facility contains two machines for testing petrophysical properties under isotropic loading conditions.

  • A vessel for measuring elastic P- and S-wave velocities using piezoelectric transducers with pulse or other signal generators at confining pressures and pore-fluid pressures to 300 MPa.
  • An apparatus for measuring porosity and permeability to pressures of 200 MPa using displaced gas, gas and liquid flow through capability, and double-ended pressure-decay testing system.

Additional facilities available in the Handin Laboratory

  • Digital data acquisition and Computer Equipment: Several mobile, networked PCs each having a Data Translation high-speed, high resolution A/D acquisition board, HP VEE with DT VPI or LabView acquisition software, and a large UPS.
  • Acoustic emission recording and counting system.
  • An experimental petrology laboratory for fluid/rock interaction with five large volume, highly corrosion resistant, flow-through hydrothermal systems allowing long-term concurrent monitoring of pore-fluid chemistry and volumetric strain.
  • Controlled humidity chamber and several furnaces.
  • Multiple vacuum and pressure epoxy impregnation systems, fume hoods, and curing ovens.
  • Diamond coring, diamond cut-off saws, surface grinder for preparation of specimens.
  • A machine shop and electronics laboratory containing an assortment of machining equipment (e.g., lathes, mills, drill press, band saw) and electronic fabrication and testing supplies and equipment.