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Lunar and Planetary

The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the Department of Earth Sciences aims to determine the physical and chemical properties of minerals, silicate magma and metals at high pressures and high temperatures.

The lab currently houses three high-pressure devices:

  1. A non-end-loaded piston cylinder apparatus (Quickpress) in which samples can be subjected to pressures between 0.4 and 2.5 GPa and temperatures up to 1800 K
  2. An end-loaded piston cylinder apparatus (also known as Freddy, manufactured at the University of Bristol), in which samples can be subjected to pressures between 1 and 3 GPa and temperatures up to 1900 K
  3. An 800 ton multi-anvil press (also known as Nina, manufactured at the University of Bristol), in which currently samples can be subjected to pressures up to 10 GPa and temperatures exceeding 2000 K.

During experiments, cubic millimeter-sized synthetic or natural samples are equilibrated at high-pressure, high-temperature conditions mimicking the conditions in the interior of the Moon, Earth, or other rocky (exo)planets. Examples of high-pressure assemblies currently in use in the lab are shown in the figure below.

The lab also has a CO-CO2 gas mixing furnace (Gero) for experiments at 1 atm pressure and temperatures up to 1800 K at controlled oxygen fugacities. A diamond anvil cell preparation facility is planned for 2022.  Full sample preparation facilities (grinding and polishing equipment, epoxy mounting device, carbon coater) are available in-house, as is a desktop SEM facility (JEOL Neoscope).

The laboratory is part of the Europlanet2024 Research Infrastructure Distributed Planetary Laboratory Facility 

Experiments are ended by rapidly cooling the samples, “freezing in” the situation at high temperature and high pressure before slowly releasing the pressure. Experimental charges are sectioned and polished for initial inspection using electron microscopy.

Experiments are used to determine mineral stability fields, melting behavior, and large-scale differentiation processes in planets. In recent years our experimental work has included studies of the crystallization of the lunar magma ocean, the interior structure of rocky exoplanets, and core formation in the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and asteroidal parent bodies.

For more information, please contact prof.dr. Wim van Westrenen (w.van.westrenen@vu.nl)