Physics and Astronomy Graduate Program Eligible to Supervise
In our group, we are interested in the structure and evolution of rocky planet interiors.
Understanding planetary interior dynamic is crucial for interpreting planets as we see them today, discerning how they evolve, and knowing to what extent they develop favorable conditions for life. Planetary structure is commonly described as a series of concentric fluid envelopes of different compositions. Thermodynamic processes that produce new distinct phases by melting or solidification play a central role in the generation of these envelopes.
During phase change, chemical components are distributed among the phases depending on their chemical affinity. Mechanical separation of the phases is achieved by processes such as crystal settling, melt percolation or gas exsolution. On a planetary scale, phase segregation processes occur in conjunction with thermochemical convection, generating a complex large-scale circulation dynamic.
Rocky planets were probably hot and molten when they formed. As the planets cooled down, they progressively solidified. Mantle solidification produces primordial mantle geochemical reservoirs that are the sources for the subsequent long-term magmatism. Planetary magmatism sets the composition of the planetary surfaces that can be characterized by remote methods in our solar system. On Earth, iron core solidification provides the primary energy source for the magnetic field generation. In our solar system, solidification processes such as mantle or iron core solidification are currently ongoing or have done so in the past. However, the physics of planetary scale multiphase dynamics remains poorly understood.
To advance our understanding of planetary scale solidification processes, we develop theoretical and modeling approaches. We propose new thermodynamic description of chemical equilibrium at pressures and temperatures relevant for planetary interiors. We apply the multiphase flows theory to planet evolution using computational fluid dynamics models.