In Brief

The BedrettoLab is a unique research infrastructure run by ETH Zurich making it possible to take a close look at the Earth’s interior. It is located in the Swiss Alps 1.5 kilometres below the surface and in the middle of a 5.2 kilometres long tunnel connecting the Ticino with the Furka railway tunnel.

Equipped with the latest technology, the BedrettoLab offers ideal conditions to conduct experimental research focusing on the behaviour of the deep underground when accessing and stimulating it. Such an access is required to advance scientific knowledge in various domains including geothermal energy and earthquake physics. It is also of relevance to develop novel techniques and sensors for these purposes.

Learn more about the scope of the project.

ETH Zurich logo  Swiss Competence Center for Energy Reasearch Supply of Electricity logo Werner Siemens Foundation logo European Union Funding Horizon 2020 logo

News

The BedrettoLab enters a new phase

The BedrettoLab enters a new phase

In 2019, the Bedretto tunnel was identified as an ideal place to establish a deep underground laboratory. Shortly after, an agreement with the tunnel owner, the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn, was signed and the preparatory work begun. The tunnel needed to be secured and the infrastructure was installed in the main cavern 2 km deep into the tunnel, to enable conducting outstanding scientific experiments. To gain a better understating of the rock properties, a geological characterization phase took place. At the same time, we tested equipment and the instruments, many of them newly developed for our specific purposes. Finally, a first experimental testbed has been set up, by drilling ten 250 to 400 m long boreholes below the main cavern and equipping them with hundreds of sensors, effectively transforming a large volume of rock in a unique sensing testbed.

Following this extensive preparatory work, the BedrettoLab is now ready for the next phase, where we really want to get to the bottom of things. The three experimental projects FEAR (Fault Activation and Earthquake Rupture, an EU ERC Synergy Project), MISS (Mitigating Induced Seismicity for Successful Geo-Resources Applications, financed by the Werner Siemens Foundation), and VALTER (VALidating of TEchnologies for Reservoir Engineering, financed by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy) are of particular importance for this phase.

Whereas VALTER focuses on different aspects of building and operating a geothermal reservoir in a safe and efficient way, MISS and FEAR are interested in fundamental earthquake processes – how earthquakes start and stop, how faults slip – and use for this purpose the tiny earthquakes induced by water injections as well as fault stimulations. The installation of a second testbed to host the FEAR and MISS experiments is now starting. For this purpose, the BedrettoLab will be extended by retrofitting additional caverns deeper in the tunnel to double the rock volumes available for experiments. Further, an additional side-tunnel of about 100 m length is planned, making it possible to monitor the target fault at close distance and add new monitoring boreholes equipped with hundreds of sensors. Outside the tunnel, this work will not be noticeable. However, the excavated material is high-quality Granite and will thus be transported from the site for further. Theses extensions are planned to be completed by summer 2022. 14 October 2021

Earthquake monitoring at the BedrettoLab now online

We have added a new feature to the BedrettoLab website: a publicly available list, which shows all detected earthquakes that were registered in the wider Bedretto area and the Lab itself. It contains all earthquakes, natural or induced, that have been detected since 01.01.2019 by the national seismic network operated by the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich. You can find it here. Additionally, you can find here more information about the monitoring network. 14 October 2021

Take a Tour

Click on this image to access a panoramic view of the lab during the construction phase.

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