British Geological Survey

Key laboratory expertise

  • Uniaxial compressive strength and deformability
  • Physical properties of rocks and minerals
  • Single– and multi–stage triaxial compressive strength and deformability
  • Indirect tensile strength of weak rocks
  • Transient permeability in triaxial compression
  • Direct shear strength
  • Rock friction


Staff and Students

The work of the RMPL is supported by a technician and 2 members of full time staff. We currently host 2 PhD students supported in other EU institutions as part of bilateral arrangements.

Rock Mechanics and Physics Laboratory

The Rock Mechanics and Physics Laboratory (RMPL) undertakes research on the physical properties and behaviour of rock specifically for: planning, design and construction within the civil engineering sector; extraction and storage within the energy sector; developing our understanding of near–surface to shallow crustal earth processes in order to help predict and mitigate the effects of small and large scale geohazards.

The RMPL lab specialises in standard (ISRM and ASTM) and bespoke geomechanical and rock physics testing, including measurement of strength (triaxial and uniaxial), deformability, thermal properties, geophysical properties, sonic velocity, permeability, porosity and density.

RMPL is the home of BGS's large scale rock deformation apparatus which is used to measure the physical properties and behaviour of rock when subjected to changes in pressure and temperature associated with near surface to shallow crustal conditions (˜6 km). The rock deformation apparatus is able to make synchronous measurement of stress, strain, sonic velocity, acoustic emission and permeability during deformation.


MTS 815 Rock Mechanics Testing System (with bespoke triaxial cell): 4.6 MN capacity servo–controlled hydraulic load frame, triaxial pressure vessel, confining pressure intensifier unit (140 MPa), a pore pressure intensifier unit (70 MPa total pressure and 35 MPa differential pressure) and heating system (200 °C)
MTS Uniaxial press: The system above may be used in uniaxial mode with the pressure vessel removed for unconfined experiments.
ITASCA-Image "Cecci" Acoustic Emission systems: This state-of-the art Acoustic Emission recorder (Applied Seismology Consultants) can measure 12 channels of AE data simultaneously, and locate the locations of the earthquakes in quasi-real time for display and analysis at data rate of up to 100 events/second. The instrument can also be used in a active mode, ‘pinging’ successive sensors to generate a dense P-wave raypath network for tomography. The recorder is used during triaxial deformation experiments to investigate the fracturing and cracking processes, due to applied stress and pore pressure, and with reference to fluid resonances.
Point Load testing (bench test and portable for fieldwork): Standard point load testing facilities for field based use.

Current Projects

- Geomechanical parameters of: reservoir (sandstone) and cap rocks (mudstone) from Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) sites in the North Sea as part of the EPSRC–funded CONTAIN project;
- Underground cavern host rock (halite) for proposed underground compressed air storage as part of the EPSRC-funded IMAGES project;
- Strength and deformability of the Montorfano Granite as part of the SAFER project;
- Measurement and characterisation of stress induced changes in the electric stress field of geological and man–made materials as part of the EPSRC–funded E–Stress project;