The 2016 Louis Néel Medal is awarded to Philip Meredith for his many contributions in rock physics and geomechanics, which are of a fundamental and profound nature, and for his role in stimulating international collaboration and interdisciplinary research.
Philip Meredith has made fundamental and seminal contributions in experimental rock physics, in relation to a diversity of basic and applied problems in crustal dynamics, natural energy resources and volcanology. A major theme of Meredith’s research for over three decades has been the time-dependent behaviour of brittle rock deformation. A key mechanism that contributes to such time dependence is subcritical crack growth. Meredith was instrumental in defining the experimental protocol for the fracture mechanics investigation of this phenomenon. With Barry Atkinson, he conducted some of the most careful and systematic investigations in the laboratory. Their collaboration culminated in the monograph on Fracture Mechanics of Rock, which is recognised as the definitive work in this area. Then Meredith made important contributions in two related geomechanics problems on different scales. First, his group conducted a comprehensive investigation of acoustic emission activity in relation to the development of failure, and in particular, the temporal characteristics and connection with subcritical crack growth. In collaboration with Ian Main, he synthesised the laboratory data and proposed a number of innovative ideas regarding the temporal evolution of seismicity and underlying mechanisms. Second, his group recently undertook a systematic investigation of the ‘brittle creep’ behaviour of reservoir rocks. These investigations have elucidated the overall behaviour in relation to dilatant and compactant failure, as well as the micromechanical bases. A second theme of Meredith’s research has been the brittle failure and fracture mechanics characteristics of rocks under elevated temperatures, with a focus on volcanological and geothermal applications. These studies have provided important constraints on the dynamics of volcanic system and related seismicity. In his research, he has been proactive in linking colleagues of multiple disciplines located worldwide, including Europe, North America and Japan. He has been particularly effective in mentoring tens of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have successfully established their careers in academia and industry all over the world.