DS10 - Défi des autres savoirs

Phase TransformatIons, MicrostructurEs, and their Seismic Signals from the Earth's mantle – TIMEleSS

Submission summary

Our knowledge of the solid Earth is built upon concerted research in diverse fields such as petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geodynamics, and mineral physics. For instance, phase transformations in minerals induce physical boundaries in the Earth's interior. The analysis of seismic signals arising from these regions brings key information for our knowledge of the structure, composition, and dynamics of the planet. Due to the extreme conditions of pressure and temperature in the Earth's interior, minerals undergo drastic trasformations and their properties must be investigated in laboratories under realistic conditions. In parallel, seismology is one of the few means of direct observation of deep Earth structures as seismic waveforms are constrained by the present-day state of matter along their propagation path.
The transition into the lower mantle at 660 km depth, for instance, has been characterized through seismology. Mineral physics demonstrated that it is mostly due to the decomposition of a mineral, ringwoodite, into an assemblage of ferropericlase and bridgmanite. Can we move our Earth model beyond simple comparison between seismic discontinuities and mineral reaction depths? Can we use seismic signals from boundary layers to characterize processes deep inside the Earth? How will this change our current view of the Earth? These are the questions the TIMEleSS project aims to answer.
Phase transformations induce changes in the material's structure, density, elastic properties, but also microstructure, i.e. the arrangement of mineral phases, grain sizes, grain orientations, and strains. Boundaries with discontinuous physical properties in the Earth also induce signatures in the seismic signals that can be analyzed accurately. Part of the signals measured in seismology and their connection to deep Earth processes, however, are not fully understood. This is especially true for the regions lying between 600 and 1700 km depth, with a complex structure of reflections at 660 km, small scale-structures at mid-mantle depth, and an elusive supplementary discontinuity at ~1000 km. By the end of this project, we intend to constrain and model the effect of phase transformations and microstructures on such observations and use this new knowledge to interpret physical processes in this depth range.
TIMEleSS intends to address the effects of microstructures on seismic signals from boundary layers in the 600-1700 km depth range. This global goal requires high pressure/temperature experimental studies and state-of-the art in-situ methods for understanding microstructures induced by phase transformations in relevant mineral compositions and the study of the seismic signals they may produce. In parallel, we will conduct seismological studies to analyze new combinations of waves, that, when used together, offer stronger possibilities to decipher physical parameters of structures in the mantle. Combining these two fields allows to better understand connections between phase transformation, microstructures and their associated seismic signals. TIMEleSS' goal is to develop new approaches and to address questions which cannot be explained by a simple analysis of the sequence of thermodynamic phase transitions as they involve microstructural and dynamic processes deep inside the Earth.
Such a project is only possible through a combination of expertise in several fields as found in Lille, Münster and Potsdam. The team of PIs includes experts in in-situ experiments, mineralogy of the deep mantle, and analysis and modelling of seismic waves from the deep Earth. We will train a new generation of multidisciplinary PhD students based in France and Germany who will interact strongly through the course of the project. The combined expertise and novel approaches in TIMEleSS are keys to obtain the important scientific results we expect within this proposal.

Project coordination

Sébastien Merkel (Unité Matériaux et Transformations, Université de Lille)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UMET Unité Matériaux et Transformations, Université de Lille
WWU Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster
GFZ Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
WWU Westfälische Wilhelms Universtät Münster

Help of the ANR 735,454 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2018 - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter