USEMS, uncovering the secrets of an earthquake
The USEMS project
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the project
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The USEMS project
Uncovering the Secrets of an Earthquake: a Multidisciplinary Study
an earthquake fault, a machine, a model... many faults, many machines, one model!

See also INGV page of USEMS project

Financed by European Research Council
Hosted by Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Italy


Principal Investigator:
Giulio Di Toro
Title and acronym of the project: Uncovering the Secrets of an Earthquake: Multidisciplinary Study of Physico-Chemical Processes During the Seismic Cycle (acronym USEMS, project Nr 205175)
Duration and budget of the project: 5 years (2008-2013), budget 1.992.000
Short abstract of the project:
Southern Europe and Turkey lie within the highest seismic risk areas in the world. Understanding the physico-chemical processes controlling earthquake generation is essential in seismic hazard assessment. Destructive earthquakes nucleate at depth (7-15 km), therefore monitoring active faults at the Earth's surface, or interpreting seismic waves, yields only limited information on earthquake mechanics. We propose to investigate earthquake processes by:
1) installing a new world class high velocity rock friction apparatus to perform experiments under deformation conditions typical of earthquakes;
2) studying fossil seismic sources now exhumed at the Earth's surface;
3) analyzing natural and experimental fault rock materials using a novel multidisciplinary approach involving state of the art techniques in microstructural analysis, mineralogy and petrology;
4) producing new theoretical earthquake models calibrated (and tightly constrained) by field observations, mechanical data from rock-friction experiments and analyses of natural and experimental fault rocks.
The integration of such an original and complementary data set shall provide an unprecedented insight into the mechanics of seismic faulting. The proposed study has additional implications for understanding other friction-controlled processes important in Earth sciences and hazard mitigation (e.g., rock landslides). Friction also has broad applications in the industry, including innovative but poorly understood production processes. Our experimental results will help to improve industrial milling techniques and investigate the mechanical-chemical transformations induced during milling.