Nanoscale detection of metastable states in porous and granular media

Eduard Ilin, Yaofa Li, Eugene V. Colla, Kenneth T. Christensen, Muhammad Sahimi, Maxim Marchevsky, Scott M. Frailey, Alexey Bezryadin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microseismicity in subsurface geologic environments, such as sandstone gas reservoirs, is expected in the presence of liquid or gas injection. Although difficult to predict, the potential for microseismic events is important to field-scale projects, such as geologic storage of CO2, whereby the gas is injected into natural sandstone formations. We conjecture that a primary factor causing microseismicity is the existence of metastable states in a granular porous medium and provide experimental evidence for its validity. External perturbation triggers abrupt relaxation events which, with a certain probability, can grow into macroscopic microseismic events. Here, the triggering perturbation is produced by cooling to a cryogenic temperature. As the "sensor" for the abrupt relaxation events, we use thin Al films deposited on the sandstone surface. We show that as the temperature is varied, the films' resistance exhibits sharp jumps, which we attribute to mechanical restructuring or microfractures in the fabric of the sandstone. We checked the superconducting characteristics of the Al thin films on the sandstone and found microwave-induced Shapiro steps on the voltage-current diagrams. Such quantized steps provide indications that the film is made of a network of nanobridges, which makes it even more sensitive to abrupt relaxation events occurring in the substrate, i.e., in the underlying sandstone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024901
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 14 2020


  • ISGS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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