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MSc project – Laboratory simulations of the influence of interior composition on exoplanetary atmospheres

Original Content –
Observations of exoplanet atmospheres provide information as to their composition. In order to link these signatures to their interiors, this project employs high temperature/high pressure experiments to determine the likely compositions of their mantles and atmospheres formed from their evaporation

Keywords: Exoplanet, interior, evaporation, atmosphere, experiment, high temperature, high pressure, mantle, observation

  • To date, more than 4000 planets have been discovered to be orbiting around stars outside our solar system. Observations of the parent stars of these so-called “exoplanets” using advanced ground-based and space telescopes provide information on size, mass, temperature and sometimes on the atmospheric composition of these planets. These observations are becoming increasingly precise and widespread, and transforming our ability to characterise exoplanetary interiors. The interiors of rocky exoplanets are thought to be chemically more diverse than those of rocky bodies in our solar system. In order to quantitatively interpret spectroscopic data from telescopes, it is essential to understand the influence of degassing from planetary interiors in producing the atmospheres of such planets. The High Pressure Group laboratory at ETH provides the facilities to simulate such processes.

  • The student would prepare synthetic chemical mixtures to mimic the anticipated bulk compositions of a range of exoplanets. These mixtures will be subjected to high pressures and temperatures, initially using a piston-cylinder press to form a miniature planet with a core and mantle in the laboratory. The experimental run products will be analysed with an electron probe micro-analyser (EPMA) in order to determine the compositions of the silicate and metal phases. The resulting composition will be used to perform evaporation experiments to determine the volatility of elements relevant to exoplanetary compositions in a gas-mixing furnace to permit comparison with exoplanetary atmospheres. This is a strongly interdisciplinary project that aims to combine laboratory experiments with astronomical observations, and would involve collaboration with astronomers and astrophysicists from the Centre for Space and Habitability from the University of Bern.

  • Dr. Kaustubh Hakim (CSH, U. Bern) –; Dr. Paolo Sossi (ETH Zürich) –


Earliest start 2021-01-01
Latest end 2022-07-31


High Pressure Geology (ETHZ)



Master Thesis



Categories: Uncategorized

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