Fluidization of Water-Saturated Sediments: Explaining Seabed Instability through Digital Imaging and Network Modeling

Project: Research project

Project Details


Understanding the transition from slow deformation to rapid fluidization in seabed sediments is one of the most formidable challenges of geophysical modeling. In fluid-saturated materials this transition is mediated by particle rearrangement, pore deformation, and fluid pressure growth. Although such feedbacks are known, challenges related with the simultaneous tracking of each of them has hindered the interpretation of solid-fluid transitions responsible for the onset and propagation of submarine failures, such as turbidity currents. This project aims to fill this gap by formulating tools to characterize, interpret and simulate the response of fluid-saturated geomaterials in light of their microscale complexity. Specifically, our goal is to reconcile the effect of fluid pressure evolution with the pore-scale kinematics. For this purpose, we hypothesize that the macroscopic response of fluid-saturated continua at the verge of failure can be linked to the network dynamics of pore distortion and grain movement. To test our hypothesis, we propose a coordinated set of hydro-mechanical experiments, kinematic analyses and model simulations. The goal will be to formulate an algorithm to track the microstructural units undergoing morphological and topological changes during fluid pressurization. By combining recent insights from viscoplastic modeling and complex network theory, these measurements will be used to establish cross-scale quantitative links between pore-scale collapse and continuum-scale sediment fluidization. If successful, this project can impact petroleum geosciences, in that it can be used to decode the temporal dynamics of the runaway failures shaping the seabed morphology and affecting the formation of hydrocarbon-bearing layers.
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/22


  • American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (PRF# 60818-ND8)


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