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Research Fellows Directory

Oliver Lord

Dr Oliver Lord

Research Fellow


University of Bristol

Research summary

Like a newborn child, the young Earth developed fast. During its violent birth it suffered repeated giant impacts, culminating in the cataclysm from which the moon formed. The huge kinetic energies involved led to the formation of magma oceans that may have extended throughout the entire planet and the segregation, under gravity, of iron metal to Earth’s centre, creating the core. While Earth was still less than a few per cent of its current age, these magma oceans had solidified almost totally. I want to understand the details of how this happened, because they have big implications for how the Earth developed and will help to explain some of its most enigmatic features.

To tackle these questions, I will recreate the extreme pressures (1.3 million atmospheres) and temperatures (4000 K) encountered in the magma ocean as it cooled and crystallised in two ways: firstly in the laboratory, by laser heating samples in a device called a diamond anvil cell and then chemically analysing them at the nano-scale using cutting edge electron and X-ray beam techniques, and secondly, inside the UK supercomputer, Archer, using quantum mechanics simulations.

I’m excited about tackling these questions, because the answers have big implications for our understanding of why and how our planet developed its key features: plate tectonics, volcanism, a protective magnetic field, a clement climate and ultimately, how it became a habitable home for us.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

The chemical architecture of the deep Earth

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2016 - Sep 2021

Value: £522,431.31

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