Research Mentor(s): Jie Li, Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Earth and Environmental Sciences, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 6 (4pm-4:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 18
As we continue to search the galaxy for habitable planets, our attention has turned to super-Earths, large rocky planets with the potential to support life. The increase in size and mass is expected to change several significant properties, including the planet’s magnetic field. Planetary magnetic dynamos are crucial for life to develop, and scientists have long debated the mechanics of dynamo formation and operation. Utilizing data on the planetary composition in our solar system and relevant material properties under high pressures and high temperatures, we will predict the likelihood for the development of a super-Earth dynamo. Earth, the largest of the four rocky planets in the Solar System, may have sustained its dynamo the longest, but Mercury, the smallest, is the only other planet to have a still-functioning dynamo. This indicates that size is only one of many factors that impacts dynamo evolution. Thus, various corroborating effects must be accounted for in our analysis. To model the internal dynamics of exoplanets, samples of core material will be compressed to high pressures. The experiments will offer data on whether a planetary core would be molten, how it would transfer heat and undergo changes with pressure. Additionally, models will be created to form predictions about the impact of mass, radius, and other properties on the formation of core dynamos. Once the extent of internal convection is defined, the model will allow for the estimation of a range of masses or radii for a super-Earth to produce a magnetic field.