Physical Simulation Laboratory

The Physical Simulation Laboratory provides support to researchers in structural geology and geodynamics. Using dedicated applications for oil and mineral exploration, the lab also interprets geophysical data to contribute to our understanding of Earth’s tectonic processes.

Laboratoire de biotechnologies environnementales (LBE)

Laboratoire de biotechnologies environnementales (LBE)

Laboratoire de biotechnologies environnementales (LBE)

Using materials with diverse physical properties to simulate rock at different layers of the Earth’s crust, the lab creates models and performs deformations that reproduce the evolution of geological structures in detail, for a clearer picture of regional geology.

Researchers draw on field studies, advanced processing of geophysical and remote sensing data, and physical simulations to interpret the geometry and evolution of geological structures and identify the structural and tectonic controls of oil traps and epigenic mineral deposits. The progressive deformation of 3D physical models can be observed using computer-assisted tomography (CT scanning).

The lab also conducts research on fundamental aspects of the tectonics of ancient Earth and other telluric planets, such as Venus and Mars.

The Physical Simulation Laboratory boasts:

A high-speed centrifuge (1000 g) for the deformation of models (made of modelling clay and silicone putty) used to simulate rock deformation (extension and shortening), taking gravitational instability (e.g., diapirism and channel flow) into account.

Other deformation instruments, e.g., sandboxes, to simulate the brittle and brittle-ductile deformation of rocks and the evolution of sedimentary basins and fold and thrust belts. Other large boxes allow researchers to use ductile, viscous, and brittle materials to study deformation of the lithosphere and the effects of rising mantle plumes, etc. PIV imaging is used for finite deformation calculations.

The Physical Simulation Laboratory is available to faculty, students, and staff of the Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre for their research projects.

Our resources and expertise are also available for external collaborative projects and fundamental and applied research contracts.

Contact us to learn more about how you can use simulations for your exploration, research, and regional geology programs.

Here are a few examples of research conducted at the Physical Simulation Laboratory:


Development and characterization of modelling materials

Structural geology

Influence of inherited Indian basement faults on the evolution of the Himalayan Orogen
Folds over a ductile substrate
Influence of sedimentary density variations on the deformation of a foreland basin in the Pyrenees
Geometry of sedimentary basins: the effects of erosion and basement structure


Modelling channel flow in the Himalayas: the effects on fold geometry
Archaean tectonics models
Regional geology and mineral exploration
Effects of basement discontinuities on the structural evolution and formation of Timiskaming basins: applications for mineralization controls at the Lac Bachelor mine, Abitibi.

The Physical Simulation Laboratory was created with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).


Lyal Harris
Professor and Scientific leader
Phone: 418-654-2568

Carole Parent
Partnerships and Research Development Advisor
Phone: 418-654-2531

Physical Simulation Laboratory

Institut national de la recherche scientifique

Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre

490 rue de la Couronne

Quebec City, Quebec G1K 9A9


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