The Laboratory of Geological Processes Simulation (SIMGEO) was created through a cooperation agreement between the CSIC and the University of Barcelona signed in December 1995. The laboratory includes a section devoted to scale modeling of crustal deformation and volcanic systems, a section on mathematical modeling and Geographical Information Systems, and development of specific software for hazard assessment and risk management, a hydraulic experimental channel, a experimental petrology laboratory for the study of the thermodynamics of shallow magma chambers, a magma chamber simulator, and an equipment for structural and tectonic analogue modelling. This laboratory, unique in Spain for its characteristics, aims to promote the application of experimental and mathematical modeling to the study of geological processes and especially of those which pose a risk to people and the environment or those that are associated with energy and economic resources, following one of the main lines of scientific research in the European Union.
Experiments hydraulic system consists of a tank channel 15m long by 37cm wide and 40cm depth. All measurements are useful. The channel sidewalls are bulletproof glass, transparent, which do not deform the images to be displayed, in order to check sediment tests. The union of the glass with the metal base is perfectly watertight. The channel is supported by a metallic system rigid enough to not allow longitudinal or transverse bending that may damage the tests.
The channel bottom is made of metal and machining is enough to prevent any irregularity in the background during the tests.
There is a lift mechanism across the channel that allows simulation trials with variable slopes. This system is reliable and leaves no preset slopes decompensation. The lifting is performed by an end of the channel and at the other end there is a hinge device that ensures the stability of the whole system. The lifting system is hydraulic and automatically operated by a suitable automated system. To prevent random movement, there are safety ratchets that do not allow any unwanted variation of the inclination chosen
Two bins one at the entrance and another at the outlet with flow sinking filters. This is the usual mechanism for controlling the depth of flow during testing. The circulation of water is performed in a closed system, and therefore, the aqueous mass is closed and recirculated through the channel indefinitely.
Mathematical modeling section
Several GIS commercial and free packages are available (ArcGIS, QGIS), as well as software for digital image processing, numerical modeling using the finite element method (COMSOL. 4.2a) and geological modeling and 3D visualization (3D Geomodeller and RockWorks 16).
Magma chamber analogue
Magma chamber analogue modelling system consists of a pressurisable (up to 6 atm) transparent glass cylinder of 25 cm diameter and 40 cm height, which includes a barometer and a thermocouple, to track temperature and internal pressure tracked during the whole experiment, allows the entrance of different fluids in the same experiment in order to visualise the effect of mixing magmas of diverse types and properties, also allows to inject pressurised gas into the mixture, so we can study the effect of volatiles in the occurring processes, and also can heat the fluids up to around 80º to be able to consider variations in their properties (e.g. density or viscosity) due to temperature changes. Decompression of the tank is controlled by a series of external valve remotely operated, and two high-speed digital cameras of high resolution document the experiments allowing internal measurements of fluid structures developing during the experiments such as fountains, drops, etc.
Analogue structural and tectonic experimental system
Modular modeling table designed to emulate a wide variety of tectonic settings: extension, compression, strike-slip, basement faulting, tectonic inversion, double-wedges, salt tectonics, gravitational glidding, etc… A total of six engines run by a digital controller allow uni, bi or triaxial tests transmitting the deformation to the mechanical arms. The number and configuration of the engines allow modeling any strain field. The rate and orientation of movement are monitored continuously by a computer allowing it to be varied during the experiment. The modeling table also allows to carry out models at different scales, from basin to crustal scale. Digital time-lapsed photographs of the upper surface of the model are taken and controlled by a computer These photographs are complemented by a high-resolution white light scan (SIDIO Pro from Nub3D) which captures the topography of the model during the experiment run, recording changes in topography at millimeter scale.