Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences

Martin Saar


21 Pillsbury Hall


Associate Professor
Gibson Chair of Hydrogeology and Geofluids 

PhD, 2003, University of California-Berkeley

For more detailed information, please click on:
Hydrogeology and Geofluids Research Group


Research Interests

    My research interest is to apply, and develop new, concepts and methods in fluid dynamics to investigate geoscience processes with an emphasis on multiphase, multicomponent, and multi-scale heterogeneous systems. Processes of interest include fluid (e.g., groundwater, oil, contaminant, CO2, magma) flow through complex porous and fractured media, rheology of composite materials (e.g., suspensions, slurries, debris flows, lahars, cements, magmas), coupled heat and fluid flow related to geothermal energy, CO2 sequestration, volcanic eruption dynamics, and pore-fluid pressure induced seismicity. My research approach is quantitative and combines numerical modeling with field and laboratory work.

     In the Geofluids Research Group we develop and employ numerical models (see for example our lattice-Boltzmann fluid flow code LBHydra), analytical methods, as well as laboratory tests and experiments, to study geofluids over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. We also conduct some field work to collect (rock, water, lava, ...) samples or to collect (heat flow, permeability, ...) data. Our studies are typically related to groundwaters, hydrocarbons, magmas, lavas, and/or (bubbly) suspensions and these fluids' roles in mass and energy (e.g., heat, pressure) transfer. Typical research topics therefore include 1) groundwater flow, 2) coupled groundwater, heat, noble gas, and/or contaminant transfer, 3) geothermal energy resources, 4) multiphase-multicomponent fluid flow, 5) poroelasticisty and hydroseismicity, 6) percolation theory and Lattice-Boltzmann simulations, 7) CO2 sequestration, 8) magma, lava, and suspension rheology and permeability, and 9) lava flow emplacement and volcanic eruption dynamics.

     Our research is possible due to two dedicated geofluids laboratories: a wet lab and a computer lab. The wet lab allows performance of experiments involving water, corn syrup, suspensions, and other analog fluids. The computer lab includes a multi-processor Linux cluster and several Linux and Windows PCs. We also run simulations on supercomputers at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

     I encourage prospective students and postdocs with interests and backgrounds in geology, hydrogeology, volcanology, tectonics, sedimentology, (geo)physics, (geological) fluid mechanics, computer science, numerical methods, or multi-phase fluid flow to consider working in my Geofluids Research Group. The formation of this group is made possible by the generous endowment from George and Orpha Gibson as well as other resources such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the University of Minnesota.

  Recent Honors

  • 2011, George W. Taylor Career Development Award, University of Minnesota
  • 2009-2011, McKnight Land-Grant Professor, University of Minnesota
  • 2005-present, Gibson Chair of Hydrogeology and Geofluids, University of Minnesota
  • 2003-04, Turner Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Michigan

  Professional Society Memberships

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • American Physical Society (APS)
  • Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH)
  • Minnesota Groundwater Association (MGA)

  Courses Taught

  • 1001: Earth and Its Environments
  • 3202: Geodynamics II: The Fluid Earth
  • 3202: Fluid Earth Dynamics (new name)
  • 4010: Coupled Heat and Fluid Flow in the Earth's Crust
  • 4702: General Hydrogeology
  • 4971: Hydrogeology Field Camp
  • 5205: Fluid Mechanics in Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • 8980: Coupled Heat and Fluid Flow in the Earth's Crust
  • 8980: Seminar: Volcanology

  Current Postdocs

  • Kong XiangZhao (postdoc, PhD in Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zuerich, 2010, start date: fall 2010)
  • Jimmy Randolph (postdoc, PhD in Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, 2011)

  Current Graduate Students

  • Maria Davis (PhD-track, start date: fall 2006)
  • Joe Myre (PhD-track, start date: fall 2008)
  • Ben Tutolo (PhD-track, start date: spring 2011)
  • Jennifer Meester (MS-track, start date: fall 2011)

  Selected Publications       (full publication list is available here).

  • Covington, M.D., A.J. Luhmann, C.M. Wicks, and M.O. Saar, Process length scales and longitudinal damping in karst conduits, Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, F01025, doi:10.1029/2011JF002212, 2012.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Developing extensible lattice-Boltzmann simulators for general-purpose graphics-processing units, Communications in Computational Physics, in press, 2012.
  • Alexander, S.C., and M.O. Saar, Improved characterization of small "u" for Jacob pumping test analysis methods, Ground Water, 50, 2, 256-265, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2011.00839.x, 2012.
  • Covington, M.D, A.F. Banwell, J. Gulley, M.O. Saar, I. Willis, C.M. Wicks, Quantifying the effects of glacier conduit geometry and recharge on proglacial hydrograph form, Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 414-415, PP. 59-71, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.10.027, 2012.
  • Covington, M.D., A.J. Luhmann, F. Gabrovsek, M.O. Saar, and C.M. Wicks, Mechanisms of heat exchange between water and rock in karst conduits, Water Resources Research, 47, W10514, doi:10.1029/2011WR010683, 2011.
  • Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Impact of reservoir permeability on the choice of subsurface geothermal heat exchange fluid: CO2 versus water and native brine, Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, 35, 521-526, 2011.
  • Randolph, J.B., and M.O. Saar, Combining geothermal energy capture with geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L10401, doi:10.1029/2011GL047265, 2011.
  • Davis, M.A., S.D.C. Walsh*, and M.O. Saar, Statistically reconstructing continuous isotropic and anisotropic two-phase media while preserving macroscopic material properties, Physical Review E, 83. 026706, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.83.026706, 2011.
  • Saar, M.O., Review: Geothermal heat as a tracer of large-scale groundwater flow and as a means to determine permeability fields, special theme issue on Environmental Tracers and Groundwater Flow, editor-invited peer-reviewed contribution, Hydrogeology Journal, 19:31-52, DOI 10.1007/s10040-010-0657-2, 2011.
  • Randolph, J.B. and M.O. Saar, Coupling carbon dioxide sequestration with geothermal energy capture in naturally permeable, porous geologic formations: Implications for CO2 sequestration, Energy Procedia, 4, 2206-2213, DOI: 10.1016/j.egypro.2011.02.108, 2011.
  • Walsh, S.D.C. and M.O. Saar, Interpolated lattice-Boltzmann boundary conditions for surface reaction kinetics, Physical Review E, 82, 066703, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.82.066703, 2010.
  • Dasgupta, S.,M.O. Saar, R.L. Edwards, C.-C. Shen, H. Cheng, E.C. Alexander Jr., Three thousand years of extreme rainfall events recorded in stalagmites from Spring Valley Caverns, Minnesota, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 300, 46-54, DOI:10.1016/j.epsl.2010.09.032, 2010.
  • Myre, J., S.D.C. Walsh, D. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, Performance analysis of lattice- Boltzmann fluid flow simulations on GPU clusters, Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience, DOI: 10.1002/cpe.1645, 2010.
  • Randolph, J.B.and M.O. Saar, Coupling geothermal energy capture with carbon dioxide sequestration in naturally permeable, porous geologic formations: A comparison with enhanced geothermal systems, Geothermal Research Council Transactions, 34, 433-438, 2010.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Macroscale lattice-Boltzmann methods for low-Peclet-number solute and heat transport in heterogeneous porous media, Water Resources Research, 46, W07517, doi:10.1029/2009WR007895, 2010.
  • Covington, M.D., C.M. Wicks, and M.O. Saar, A dimensionless number describing the effects of recharge and geometry on discharge from simple karst aquifers, Water Resources Research, 45, W11410, doi:10.1029/2009WR008004, 2009.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., M.O. Saar, P. Bailey, and D.J. Lilja, Accelerating geoscience and engineering system simulations on graphics hardware, Computers & Geosciences, doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2009.05.001, 2009.
  • Bailey, P., J. Myre, S.D.C. Walsh, D.J. Lilja, and M.O. Saar, Accelerating Lattice Boltzmann Fluid Flow Simulations Using Graphics Processors, 38th International Conference on Parallel Processing (ICCP-2009), peer-reviewed publication, September, 2009.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Magma yield stress and permeability: Insights from multiphase percolation theory, J. Volcanol. Geoth. Res., doi: 10.1016/j.volgeores.2008.07.009, 2008.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., H. Burwinkle, and M.O. Saar, A new partial-bounceback lattice-Boltzmann method for fluid flow through heterogeneous media, Computers and Geosciences, doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2008.05.004, 2008.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., S.C. Alexander, and M.O. Saar, Lattice-Boltzmann simulations of carbonate systems, in Sinkholes and the Environmental Impacts of Karst, Proceedings of the Eleventh Multidisciplinary Conference, Ed. L.B. Yuhr, E.C. Alexander, Jr., B.F. Beck, American Society of Civil Engineers, Geotechnical Special Publication No. 183, pp. 761, 444-453, 2008.
  • Walsh, S.D.C., and M.O. Saar, Numerical Models of Stiffness and Yield Stress Growth in Crystal-Melt Suspensions, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.11.028, Online: 2007, Print: 2008.
  • Edwards, R.A., B. Rodriguez-Brito, L. Wegley, M. Haynes, M. Breitbart, D.M. Peterson, M.O. Saar, S. Alexander, E.C. Alexander Jr., F. Rohwer, Using pyrosequencing to shed light on deep mine microbial ecology under extreme hydrogeological conditions, BMC Genomics, doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-57, 2006.
  • Christiansen, L., S. Hurwitz, M.O. Saar, S.E. Ingebritsen, P. Hsieh, Seasonal seismicity at western United States volcanic centers, Earth. Planet. Sci. Lett., 240, 307-321, 2005.
  • Saar, M.O., M.C. Castro, C.M. Hall, M. Manga, and T.P. Rose, Quantifying magmatic, crustal, and atmospheric Helium contributions to volcanic aquifers using all stable noble gases: Implications for magmatism and groundwater flow, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., Vol. 6, Nr. 3, Q03008, doi:10.1029/2004GC000828, 2005.
  • Jellinek, A.M., M. Manga, and M. O. Saar, Did melting glaciers cause volcanic eruptions in eastern California? Probing the mechanics of dike formation, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 109, Nr. B9, B09206, doi:10.1029/2004JB002978, 2004.
  • Saar, M.O. and M. Manga, Depth dependence of permeability in the Oregon Cascades inferred from hydrogeologic, thermal, seismic, and magmatic modeling constraints, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 109, Nr. B4, B04204, doi:10.1029/2003JB002855, 2004.
  • Saar, M.O. and M. Manga, Seismicity induced by seasonal groundwater recharge at Mt. Hood, Oregon, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., Vol. 214, 605-618, 2003
  • Saar, M.O. and M. Manga, Continuum percolation for randomly oriented soft-core prisms, Phys. Rev. E, Vol. 65, 056131-1 to 6, 2002.
  • Saar, M.O., M. Manga, K. Cashman, and S. Fremouw, Numerical models of the onset of yield strength in crystal-melt suspensions, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., Vol. 187, 367-379, 2001.
  • Saar, M.O., and M. Manga, Permeability-porosity relationship in vesicular basalts,Geophys. Res. Lett., Vol. 26, No. 1, 111-114, 1999.

Recent Research Support

  • 2010-2013: DOE (PI): An integrated experimental and numerical study: Developing a reaction transport model that couples chemical reactions of mineral dissolution/precipitation with spatial and temporal flow variations in CO2/brine/rock systems. 3-year grant: DE-EE0002764
  • 2009-2012: NSF (PI): CDI-Type 1: A science and engineering programming and inverse modeling environment for massively parallel heterogeneous computing systems. 3-year grant: EAR-0941666
  • 2009-2012: NSF (co-PI): Field and numerical analyses of the thermal, mechanical, and fluid evolution of extensional detachment zones. 3-year grant: EAR-0838541
  • 2009-2012: IREE (Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment) (PI): Renewable Energy and the Environment): Combining geothermal energy extraction and CO2 sequestration to produce clean, renewable, carbon negative electricity. 3-year grant.
  • 2007-2010: NSF (PI): Multiscale multiphase flow simulations of dense vesicular particle suspensions. 3-year grant: DMS-0724560
  • 2005-2010: NSF (PI): Determining Large-Scale Permeability of Magma From its Bubble and Crystal Microstructure - A Multiphase Percolation Theory Approach. 5-year grant: EAR-0510723
  • 2005-2011: Endowment from George and Orpha Gibson for the chair of hydrogeology and geofluids, U. of Minnesota