This scientist has us closer than ever
to recreating an earthquake in the lab.

See how

Thirty five years and counting

Brown University’s Dr. Terry Tullis was the first to come up with the idea of using a high-pressure rotary sheer machine to study how rocks deform during earthquakes. After nearly 40 years of tinkering and testing, the combination of a HEIDENHAIN encoder and ETEL motor have us closer than ever to being able to simulate and observe how rocks change during earthquakes at extreme depths—and maybe even a big step closer to predicting them.

To be a good scientist you need not only to understand mathematics and the basics of science, you also need to have creativity and originality.

– Dr. Terry Tullis, Experimental Geophysicist, Brown University

Bringing Earth’s mysteries to the surface

The 135-horsepower ETEL torque motor and the 27-bit HEIDENHAIN absolute angle optical encoder have provided just what Dr. Tullis needed for his machine and research to take the next step. They can power, control and record cylindric rock samples that slide over each other at slip rates of up to four meters per second at the same pressures found 10 kilometers below the Earth’s surface where earthquakes originate.

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This motor had the capability of going at much higher speeds than the other motors I had seen and still had adequate torque. Similarly, the encoders seemed to be much higher resolution than other possible devices I had considered using.

– Dr. Terry Tullis

In February of 2018, engineers from HEIDENHAIN and ETEL traveled to Providence, RI to help Dr. Tullis with the delicate assembly.

angle encoders

Learn more about the products helping further our understanding of earthquakes.

About HEIDENHAIN angle encoders

About ETEL torque motors