The Earth Resources Laboratory (ERL) is MIT’s home for research on the discovery, understanding, and responsible use of our planet’s subsurface resources -- from energy reserves and raw material supplies to the capacity for underground storage -- while also recognizing and managing the associated environmental impacts. At ERL, we are all deeply committed to the pursuit of global sustainability.

Headquartered in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences (EAPS) but engaging faculty, research staff and students from across the Institute, ERL has been an acclaimed hub of subsurface science for more than 40 years. The core discipline of ERL is geophysics, as it provides the critical frameworks and technologies with which we “see” into the Earth to map and measure its structure, composition and physical properties. However, our range of expertise has expanded over the years to include a variety of fields such as the geomechanics of fractures; flows in porous media; computational inverse problems; and inference and artificial intelligence (AI).

As a result, research in ERL today lies at the forefront of addressing questions such as:
• How to design new and improved methods for subsurface mapping?
• How to extract meaningful information from indirect, incomplete and/or corrupted data?
• How to augment flawed physical models with data-centric AI-based solutions?
• How to reliably quantify the uncertainty in our results and predictions?

While the daily thrust of our work at ERL focuses on improving methods for mapping and understanding Earth’s interior and its processes from the micro to the mega scale, ultimately we are driven by the grand challenges of sustainable resource access and use facing humanity. Though always evolving, the areas of our current research motivation include:
• Geothermal Energy—how best to harness Earth’s capacity as both heat source and sink for grid-scale electricity generation and direct heating and cooling of buildings locally.
• Carbon Storage—addressing the issues of scale, rate, integrity and permanence around injecting excess carbon into the Earth and locking it out of the atmosphere.
• Subsurface Energy Storage—exploring the potential for underground reservoirs to store thermal, physical and chemical energy as a buffer to the intermittency of renewables.
• Critical Minerals—understanding the abundance, distribution and accessibility of rare earths and metals of critical industrial and geopolitical importance.
• Hydrogen Mining—the novel and rapidly advancing field seeking to harness or stimulate the production of hydrogen deep in the Earth as a new carbon-free energy source.
• Groundwater Sustainability—expanding our understanding of the pathways, processes and rates of sustainable aquifer use, recharge and the maintenance of water quality.

The work we do at ERL is complementary to and coordinated with other departments, labs and centers at MIT such as: EAPS, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Mathematics, Aeronautics and Astronautics, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the Center for Computational Science and Engineering.

Since the beginning, ERL has also enjoyed the dedicated support of an industrial affiliates program that is open to and welcoming of new members, whether corporate, governmental, foundation, or other (see benefits of membership). We are continuously looking for talented people to join the lab (see our openings page). Stay in touch to learn about ERL's livestreams and other announcements:

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We welcome your feedback, and hope to see you soon at one of our events!

Laurent Demanet
Director, Earth Resources Laboratory