University College London

Key laboratory expertise

  • Time-dependent rock deformation
  • Deformation under true triaxial conditions replicating stress states in the crust
  • Ultra-high strain rate rock deformation and pulverization
  • Permeability evolution and anisotropy in crack–damaged rocks
  • Physical, mechanical and transport properties of shales and mudstones
  • Response of bentonite to chemo-mechanical conditions related to long term storage of radioactive waste
  • Mechanics of Lava Domes and collapse


Staff and Students

The work of RIPL is supported by two full time technicians and 9 members of full time academic staff. We currently host 4 PhD students. The laboratory typically support a further 3-4 MSci or MSc projects annually on a range of project topics.

Alumni from the lab can be found in academia, industry, and government posts worldwide.

Rock and Ice Physics Laboratory (RIPL)

The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory (RIPL) at UCL is a major research facility which forms part of the Earth Sciences Department. RIPL has over 15 members and consists of 11 laboratories, housing over £4M of research equipment, supported by over £2 million of current peer-reviewed funding. The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory has a unique breadth of experience and ability to design and build its own experimental apparatus.

We study the physical behaviour of ice and rocks that make up the surface and interior of the Earth, and other solid bodies in the solar system, so as to constrain the dynamic, tectonic and environmental processes of planetary evolution. Our research is nationally unique and multi-disciplinary, being based on experiment and theory.



Large uniaxial press: Our 200 kN universal load frame is equipped with a large volume environmental chamber to allow experiments to be conducted on rock or ice samples at temperatures from +400ºC to -200ºC
Small uniaxial press: 20kN press used for a variety of uniaxial and cyclical deformation experiments with and without an environmental chamber.
True triaxial apparatus: Triaxial apparatus capable of independently loading a cubic sample in three orthogonal directions (sigma-1, -2 and -3) to mimic the 'true' stresses in the Earth.
High speed impact rig: Newly developed as part of a NERC standard grant to invesigate rock deformation due to high speed impact and very high strain rate processes. 
2 x traditional permeameters: We have developed a servo-controlled steady-state-flow permeameter that can measure over the range of >1D (>10-12m2) to << 1nD (<<10-21m2). The system operates at confining pressures up to 300 MPa and incorporates instrumentation to allow simultaneous changes in porosity and elastic wave velocities (P and S).
Large conventional triaxial: Triaxial deformation cell for sediments operating at low temperatures and pressures (70 MPa), incorporating three 70 MPa pore fluid intensifiers, utilizing a 2600 kN servo-controlled actuator, with permeability measurements on 3 axes, using 80mm diameter core specimens. Two triaxial deformation cells for sediments operating at low temperatures and pressures (70 MPa), incorporating a 70 MPa pore fluid intensifier, utilizing 250 kN servo-controlled actuators, using 38mm diameter by 76mm long specimens. 
The Murrell Rig (gas triaxial): One of the oldest apparatus is the laboratory the Murrell rig is names after Stan Murrel, former professor or rock mechanics at UCL. This rig is equivalent to the well-kown Patterson apparatus, capable of deforming 15mm samples at confining pressure up to 1.4 GPa and 1000C via a 200kN actuator.
The Jefferd Rig (conventional triaxial): Our servo-controlled triaxial rock deformation and rock physics ensemble can operate at confining pressures to 400 MPa and temperatures to 400ºC. It incorporates an independent 400 MPa pore fluid pressure
Tube furnace: Carbolite furnace for induced seismicity, heat treatment, and thermal stressing of samples.
Fracture mechanics apparatus: High-temperature (700ºC) fracture mechanics apparatus using water/brine or gas as a pore fluid medium (up to 70 MPa) utilizing short rod specimen. This apparatus is used to simulate conditions in a volcanic ediface and lava flows.
Cold room facilities: The Ice Physics Laboratory  consists of a 5 chamber complex of inter-connected cold rooms controllable from 0 to -30 deg C
Vallen acoustic emission monitoring kit: A 10 channel AE system for high speed acoustic emission.
Argon/Helium Pycnometer: Standard Accupync 1334.

Current Projects

- Influence of pore space anisotropy on the development of compaction bands;
- Modelling the permeability evolution of micro-cracked rocks from elastic wave velocity inversion at elevated isostatic pressure;
- Geophysical Scale Sea Ice Rheology from Laboratory Experiments;
- Quantitative field studies of earthquake faults;
- Experimental rock deformation and laboratory seismology;
- Regional Seismic Imaging/modeling;