PhD project: Giant planets in the experimental laboratory: revealing the hidden properties of the planetary interiors.

Project description

Our knowledge of giant planets results from space missions and telescopes, which provide information about the planetary surfaces. Giant planets, either the “gas” ones (Jupiter and Saturn) or the “ice” ones (Uranus and Neptune) have peculiar dynamos which generate different magnetic fields. In Jupiter, this is explained by the immiscibility of hydrogen and helium at conditions where hydrogen becomes a metallic liquid, while in Uranus the conduction comes from free-moving hydrogen ions, released by the break-up of molecules, a state called superionic water. These changes are induced by the extreme pressure and temperature within the planets. Quantum chemistry indicates that we cannot understand planetary conditions by making observations at Earthly conditions: it is crucial to measure the fundamental changes to chemistry at extreme conditions.

As part of this PhD project, experimental data will be collected in our in-house laboratory, mimicking planetary conditions. The PhD student will use emerging technologies such as diamond anvil cells combined with high-temperature techniques, using in situ optical diagnostics. This is a multidisciplinary project combining material, physical, planetary, and chemical sciences. The PhD student will be encouraged to actively communicate with exoplanetary experts from the School’s Institute for Astronomy. Research will be carried out at the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions (CSEC), and complementary diagnostics taking place at synchrotron facilities worldwide

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