Deep Earth

Alpine contractional structure

The morphology of the Earth’s surface (mountain ranges, ocean basins, etc.) reflects deep-seated processes which occur in the Earth’s crust and mantle according to the mechanics of plate tectonics. The “fabric” and composition of many geological terrains and materials (rocks, minerals, magmas, ore resources) are the results of processes which take place under a range of temperatures and pressures, from near-surface to deep-Earth conditions. Likewise, the most impressive geological manifestations, such as earthquakes and volcanism, enucleate at variable depths in the Earth interior, from 0 to 700 Km. 

In spite of their massive effects, these phenomena originate at the atomic level. Therefore, the understanding of multi-scale geological processes that occur in the deep Earth, as well as their effects on the dynamics of the shallow-Earth domain, can only be accomplished by merging direct investigations at variable spatial resolutions (from the lattice-grain scale , 10-9 -10-3 m) to the mountain belt (103 -106 m) and, eventually, by comparing terrestrial phenomena with those observable on other planetary bodies. 

'On-line' phase transformation of a pyroxene (larger crystal) with increasing the pressure inside a diamond-anvil cell

Such an integrated approach is based on the analyses of geologic material brought to the Earth’s surface by exhumation processes or recovered by means of drilling projects, or from satellite and other geophysical data. Hence, a wide range of disciplines are involved, namely Mineralogy, Petrology, Geochemistry, Structural Geology, Geophysics and Satellite Remote Sensing.

Within Program 1, the following research lines can be listed:

  • Mineralogy under ambient and extreme conditions, minerogenesis and ore deposits (contact: Paolo Nimis)
  • Petrology of magmatic and metamorphic systems (contact: Giuliano Bellieni)
  • Structural and regional geology, tectonic and geodynamics, physical chemical processes in seismic faults, stress and strain in seismic areas (contact: Giorgio Pennacchioni)
  • Remote sensing of planetary surfaces and comparative planetology (contact: Matteo Massironi).