Structural Geology


Chiara Del Ventisette, +39 3316703174,


Description of the activity

The laboratory was established in 1998 in collaboration with the Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources (Florence territorial unit) of the National Research Council of Italy.

Analogue modeling involves the use of analog materials (mainly mixtures of sands, silicones and polyglycerines) that allow to respect the criteria of geometric-kinematic-dynamic-rheological similarity in replicating various geological processes in the laboratory. This technique therefore allows us to reproduce and study natural processes in the typical times and spaces of a laboratory, providing the possibility to continuously monitor natural processes that generally take place in geological times (generally millions of years) and at depths not accessible for direct observation.. Given the possibility of evaluating, even in a quantitative manner, the role of the various parameters and boundary conditions in controlling a given geological process, this methodology is extremely effective in fully analyzing the dynamics and kinematics of the various terrestrial and planetary geological processes.


In recent years the laboratory has mainly focused on the study of:

• processes of continental extension, from basin to continental scale;

• continental collision processes and development of orogenic belts and related thrust systems;

• Modalities of magma emplacement within different geodynamic contexts, and relations with deformation.

• Inversion tectonics, both positive and negative.

• Analysis of the complex evolution of sedimentary basins.

• Modeling of Ice-flow dynamics

• Modeling of deformation mechanism of landslides


The laboratory is part of the EPOS European Strategic Infrastructure Network for Earth Sciences.



  1. Prototype apparatus for the deformation of analogue models under simple and pure shear conditions. The apparatus consists of two stepping motors with axis settled at 90°. The motors are connected to a mobile wall that transmits the deformation to the model. The resulting vector allows to vary the movement imposed to the mobile plate, thereby allowing the simulation of different deformation settings. A piston controlled by a third motor allows to simulate the emplacement of magma into the analogue continental crust.
  2. Large-capacity centrifuge allowing the deformation of analogue models in enhanced gravitational field. This capability makes this apparatus particularly useful for modelling geological processes in which the gravitational contrast plays a fundamental role.
  3. Pure shear squeeze box built at the Hans Ramberg Tectonic Lab, Uppsala University, Sweden. The apparatus allows to include in the modelling the isostatic compensation provided by asthenosphere.
  4. Coni-cylindrical viscometer for the measurement of rheological properties (such as the viscosity) of ductile experimental materials, for instance silicone putty.
  5. 2 RangeVision Spectrum, a 3d high-resolution scanner working on the principle of structured illumination that allows the reconstruction of accurate digital elevation models of the analogue experiments. Successive scans of the models allow the analysis of the evolution of model topography, fault displacement and morphology, ect.
  • Photogrammetric apparatus for the detailed monitoring of the deformation of the model surface.
  • High sensitivity (0.04°C) and high frequency (60Hz) thermal imaging camera for monitoring and study of fluid flow in models
  • 2 PC (1 desktop and 2 notebook) for monitoring and elaboration of models results.


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