Rifts provide a unique window into the geodynamic system of our planet and the processes that shape the surface of the Earth. The CRYSTALS project aims at a thorough understanding of continental rift dynamics and rifted margin formation by means of a comprehensive multi-scale numerical modelling design.



AguTV clip about CRYSTALS and the Geodynamic Modelling section. This video is part of a short documentary about the Geophysics Department at GFZ Potsdam. [click  here for entire video]

News and Highlights

October 2018:

     New paper published in Solid Earth: "Oblique rifting: the rule, not the exception." Click here for more info.

     New paper on laboratory experiments and numerical models of strain localisation accepted in Tectonophysics: "High-temperature shear zone formation in Carrara marble: The effect of loading conditions". Click here to download.

September 2018:

      We are happy to announce our new teaching module at the University of Potsdam “Modelling Dynamics and Structure of the Lithosphere”. There will be lectures and exercises every Thursday 14:15-15:45 and a block course from 11ht to 15th of February. Click here for more info. 

 August 2018:

      We welcome new PhD student Derek Neuharth. Derek’s research topic is “Geodynamics of Continental Rifted Margin Formation – Numerical Modelling of Rift Processes from Localisation to Break-up”.

      Congratulations to our Ethiopian colleague Ameha Muluneh who gained a TWAS-DFG fellowship with which he will visit us from January to April 2019. Ameha will work on "Rheology of Continental Rifting: A Multi-observational approach integrating geophysical, geological and geodynamic techniques" with a special focus on the Ethiopian Rift.

July 2018:

      New article preprint online: Max's paper on strain localisation reproducing rheological experiments and beyond (Link to EarthArXiv);

June 2018:

      We welcome new team member Tim Hake for his internship on automated fault analysis in numerical models.

CRYSTALS Publications

A global census of rift obliquity since Pangea fragmentation

Brune, S., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D., 2018, Oblique rifting: the rule, not the exception: Solid Earth, v. 9, p. 1187–1206, doi:https://doi.org/10.5194/se-9-1187-2018. [More Info and Downloads]

Laboratory experiments and numerical models of strain localisation in ductile shear zones

Nardini, L., Rybacki, E., Döhmann, M.J.E.A., Morales, L.F.G., Brune, S., and Dresen, G., 2018, High-temperature shear zone formation in Carrara marble: The effect of loading conditions: Tectonophysics, [Link to Paper].

Nonlinear viscoplasticity in ASPECT

Glerum, A., Thieulot, C., Fraters, M., Blom, C., and Spakman, W. (2018), Nonlinear viscoplasticity in ASPECT: benchmarking and applications to subduction. Solid Earth, v. 9, p. 267–294 [Link to Paper].

Forces within rifts

Brune, S., (2018), Forces within continental and oceanic rifts: Numerical modeling elucidates the impact of asthenospheric flow on surface stress, Geology, v. 46, p. 191–192, doi: 10.1130/focus022018.1. [Link to Paper

A connection between rifting and climate

Brune, S., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D. (2017): Potential links between continental rifting, CO2 degassing and climate change through time, Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/s41561-017-0003-6 [Link to Paper].

Global evolution of dynamic topography

Rubey, M., Brune, S., Heine, C., Davies, D.R., Williams, S.E., and Müller, R.D. (2017): Global patterns in Earth’s dynamic topography since the Jurassic: the role of subducted slabs: Solid Earth, 8, 899- 919, doi: doi.org/10.5194/se-8-899-2017. [Link to Paper]

Rift Linkage Modelling in East Africa

Brune, S., Corti, G., and Ranalli, G. (2017) Controls of inherited lithospheric heterogeneity on rift linkage: Numerical and analogue models of interaction between the Kenyan and Ethiopian rifts across the Turkana depression: Tectonics, p. 2017TC004739, doi: 10.1002/2017TC004739. [More Info, Animations, and Downloads]

Rifted Margin Architecture and Crustal Rheology

Brune, S., Heine, C., Clift, P.D., and Pérez-Gussinyé, M., 2017, Rifted margin architecture and crustal rheology: Reviewing Iberia-Newfoundland, central South Atlantic, and South China sea: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 79, 257–281, doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2016.10.018. [More Info, Animations, and Downloads]

Abrupt plate accelerations due to rifting

Brune, S., Williams, S.E., Butterworth, N.P., Müller, R.D. (2016): Abrupt plate accelerations shape rifted continental margins: Nature, 536 (7615), 201–204, doi:10.1038/nature18319. [More Info, Animations, and Downloads]

Numerical Models on Centimetre-Scale

Cyprych, D., Brune, S., Piazolo, S., Quinteros, J. (2016): Strain localization in polycrystalline material with second phase particles: Numerical modeling with application to ice mixtures: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, doi:10.1002/2016GC006471. [Link to Paper]

Review Article

Brune, S. (2016): Rifts and rifted margins: A review of geodynamic processes and natural hazards. Invited Review Paper in Geophysical Monograph, 219 “Plate Boundaries and Natural Hazards”, Duarte and Schellart (Eds.), AGU/Wiley Publishing. [Link to Paper]

Project details

Project type

Helmholtz Young Investigators Group

Time frame

2016 - 2021

Funding agency

Helmholtz Association

Principal investigator

Sascha Brune


Manfred Strecker, Henry Wichura, Simon Riedl (Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Potsdam)

Simon Williams, Dietmar Müller (EarthByte Group, University of Sydney, Australia)

Giacomo Corti (Florence University, Italy) 

Sascha Brune
Dr. Sascha Brune
Geodynamische Modellierung
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19
Gebäude HMA 18/19, Raum 502
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1928
Zum Profil
Anne Glerum
M. Sc. Anne Glerum
Geodynamische Modellierung
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19
Gebäude HMA 18/19, Raum 510
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-28766
Zum Profil
Maximilian Döhmann
M. Sc. Maximilian Döhmann
Geodynamische Modellierung
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19
Gebäude HMA 18/19, Raum 501
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-28792
Zum Profil
Derek Neuharth
M. Sc. Derek Neuharth
Geodynamische Modellierung
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19
Gebäude HMA 18/19, Raum 505
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-28884
Zum Profil
Marzieh Baes
Dr. Marzieh Baes
Geodynamische Modellierung
Heinrich-Mann-Allee 18/19
Gebäude HMA 18/19, Raum 507
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1935
Zum Profil
Esther Lina Heckenbach
studentische Hilfskraft
Esther Lina Heckenbach
Medien und Kommunikation
Zum Profil