Computational mineral physics, Earth’s core, planetary cores, deep Earth
Professor of Mineral Physics
|Professor of Mineral Physics
|Kathleen Lonsdale 121
|GEOL0012: Global Geophysics
|Crystallography and Mineral Physics
|020 3108 6332 (56332)
Within our Crystallography and Mineral Physics Group, the main focus of my research has been the use of computer simulation (and, to some extent, experiment) to determine the thermoelastic and rheological properties of solid and liquid iron and iron alloys at the extreme conditions of pressure and temperature relevant to the Earth's core (up to 6000 K and up to 360 GPa).
I have also applied these techniques to terrestrial planetary cores and to planetary ices, which provides a focus for our research into the thermoelastic and rheological properties of planetary forming materials and the subsequent incorporation of our results into planetary evolution models. More recently we have been looking at the partitioning of water, volatiles and HSEs between liquid iron and silicate melts with a view to understanding the water, volatile and HSE distribution in the deep Earth.
- The Earth’s core as a reservoir for water (Li et al. Nature Geoscience, 2020)
Current estimates of the budget and distribution of water in the Earth have large uncertainties, most of which are due to the lack of information about the deep Earth. Recent studies suggest that the Earth could have gained a considerable amount of water during the early stages of its evolution from the hydrogen-rich solar nebula, and that a large amount of the water in the Earth may have partitioned into the core. Here we calculate the partitioning of water between iron and silicate melts at 20–135 GPa and 2,800–5,000 K, using ab initio molecular dynamics and thermodynamic integration techniques. Our results show that water always partitions strongly into the iron liquid under core-formation conditions. We therefore conclude that the Earth’s core may act as a large reservoir that contains most of the Earth’s water. Read the full research article.