Research Fellows Directory
Dr Maxime Viallet
University of Exeter
My research focuses on the physical processes in the interior of stars. Stars are characterised by the huge production of heat by nuclear reactions at their centre. The energy that is produced there is transported toward the surface thanks to two physical processes: in radiative regions, the photons (i.e. particles of light) carry the energy ; in convective regions, it is hot plumes rising through the star and cold plumes sinking toward the centre that carry heat outward. Convective regions are therefore characterised by large-scale motions of the gas whereas radiative zones are much quieter and thread by the internal waves excited by the stirring due to convection.
As we cannot observe directly inside a star, numerical simulations offer a great opportunity to improve our understanding of the physics of stellar interiors. Outstanding questions concern the mixing processes of chemical elements, which are the fuel of stars, the influence of rotation on the gas flow, and how large-scale magnetic fields are built.
The realistic modeling of these processes is a challenge that can be met by the development of dedicated computer programs taking advantage of the super-computing facilities that developed during the last decade. I developed such a numerical code, dubbed MUSIC, to answer key-questions in the field of stellar physics. My research activities aim at better describing the physics of stars, thereby enabling astrophysicists to study their evolution on a better theoretical basis. This is a very important field of science, as stars are the chemical engines of the Universe, enriching the interstellar medium with heavy elements like carbon or oxygen which are the building blocks of planets and life.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)