Research at ISTO covers a large spectrum of scales, in terms of space (from mountain ranges to nanoscale interfaces), time (from minutes to millions of years), and PT conditions (from -2 to +40 kbars, -40 ° C to 2000 ° C). The main topics concern the biogeochemistry of the critical zone and the water-soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, the reactive transport in saturated and unsaturated porous media, the chemo-mechanical coupling, the metallogeny and the processes of enrichment, thermodynamics and physics of silicate liquids and degassing processes, crustal rheology and the location of deformation on a geodynamic scale.
Five research groups – Magma, Geodynamics, Metallogeny, Porous media, Biogeosystems – referred to as Grand Programs (GPs), shape the institute. The first three of the GPs are part of section 18 of the CNRS. The GP Porous media relates to sections 18 and 30 of the CNRS, while GP Biogeosystems is associated with section 30. The GPs Metallogeny, Porous media, and Biogeosystems are at the core of collaborations with the BRGM. Projects in the fields of Porous media and Biogeosystems are strongly supported scientific priorities of the region Centre.
ISTO’s research is leading in the development of experiments and in situ measurements, in the laboratory and in the field. In the laboratory, “in situ” means that PTX parameters (pressure, temperature, composition, etc.) of the natural environment are recreated under controlled conditions in relation to spatially and/or temporally resolved records of the natural systems in order to reconstruct processes and physical and/or chemical mechanisms. In the field, “in situ” implies high-resolution and high-speed measurements, combined with advanced spatial resolution to provide high-quality data for conceptual models. The instrumental equipment at ISTO continues to grow, permitted by major funding through several projects (Labex VOLTAIRE, Equipex PLANEX, CPER-FEDER PIVOTS project: metrology, sensors, PLAT'INN: ecotechnologies, MIMAROC: thermomechanics of rocks, PROMESTOCK, RADIOCENTRE).
The scientific reach and impact is ensured through the application of state-of-the-art experimental methods in close connection with numerical, mechanistic-diagnostic, and geostatistical-predictive modeling. Joint, multi-scale / multi-physics modeling narrows the classical gap between natural and laboratory spatial and temporal scales, and it further couples the investigation of thermal-hydraulic-mechanical-chemical-biological mechanisms. This approach of multi-scale, multi-component ‘modelling’ is decisive for developing applications and services especially in the field of environmental engineering, in conjunction with several regional public partners (IRSTEA, INRA) and private companies (ANTEA).
The core strengths of our institute are experimentation in the laboratory and in the field, from deep geology to the surface.