Heriot Watt University

Key laboratory expertise

  • Fault frictional behaviour
  • Fault re-activation
  • Deformation band identification and characterisation
  • Rock elastic properties
  • Uniaxial and triaxial compressive strength
  • Non-destructive testing (acoustics, x-ray CT, neutron CT)
  • Single- and Multi-phase flow in geomaterials


Staff and Students

The lab team currently comporises of 4 PhD Students, 2 Research Associates, and 5 academic staff.

Rock Mechanics Laboratory

The Rock Mechanics Laboratory at Heriot-Watt University facilitates deformation experiments designed to better understand upper crustal mechanical and transport properties. We study a range of materials such as weakly cemented sediments, sandstones, conglomerates, carbonates and granites. The team is applying a range of non-destructive methods to get a good understanding of the deformation processes and rock-fluid(s) system interaction.

The The newly-acquired EasyTom Micro is a powerful tool for our XRT studies. EasyTom has: a) multiple micro-focus tube configuration up to 230 kV; b) 4 ┬Ám Highest resolution 3D CT; and c) superfast CT acquisition up to 6s for fast inspections or 4D CT. For more info on the EasyTom Micro, contact Dr Helen Lewis (h.lewis@hw.ac.uk)  

Related facilities at Heriot-Watt University:


  • Nitrogen Gas Permeameter: up to 400 psi confining stress, 25 mm and 38 mm diameter cells, measures the flowrate, differential pressure, upstream pressure and temperature used to determine sample’s permeability.
  • Helium Gas Porosimeter: can accommodate samples up to 38 mm diameter; determined the pore volume of sample used to define porosity.
  • RPD Howden Stiff Testing Machine: apply axial load (1000 kN) with associated pressure intensifier (up to 69 MPa) and pore pressure system (69 MPa).
  • Cells: Hoek cells (69MPa) for 25 mm and 38 mm diameter samples coupled with 38 mm acoustic platens (manufactured in-house), 25 mm and 38 mm diameter porous platens (manufactured in-house) and 25 mm and 38 mm hardened steel platens (for failure tests). Smart cell (up to 55 MPa) for true triaxial testing, accommodating a specimen diameter of 25 mm, 30 mm and 80 mm [needs repair].
  • Brazil testing equipment: curved loading jaw, samples of 25 mm and 38 mm.
  • Acoustic Velocity System: Acoustic platens with associated HV Pulse/Receiver Model 5058PR and HP54200D Digiting Oscilloscope.
  • Fluid Flow system: Pharmacia Biotech Pup P-500 (1-499 ml/hr) able to pump various saturation fluids, in-line differential pressure transducers, porous plattens.
  • Strain measurements System: Wheatstone bridge arrangements capable of measuring axial and radial strains, using strain gauges attached to the sample surface.
  • Conventional triaxial apparatus [under construction]
  • Neutron syn-flow monitoring equipment: to support single- and multi-phase flow experiments at European Neutron Source e.g. HZB and ILL including syringe pump, tubing, end caps.
  • Sample fabrication: Artificially cemented synthetic 'rocks'
Current Projects

- Micro-mechanics of weakly cemented sands including x-ray and neutron imaging;
- Deformation and transport properties in carbonate rocks with different porosity and permeability (high and low): x-ray and neutron imaging;
- Deformation and transport properties in low permeability conglomerates;
- Upcoming: Experimental determination of fault frictional and transport properties in a deep geothermal setting (part of GWatt; https://geoenergy.hw.ac.uk/research/gwatt/);