Steve Jacobsen, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, studies the fundamental role of material properties in various aspects of Earth, planetary, and materials sciences. In mineral physics, he uses high-pressure experiments and information about the composition, structure, and other properties of minerals and melts to understand geophysical processes, geochemical cycling, and to investigate potentially useful properties of minerals and new materials for societal applications. He is especially interested in the origin and distribution of water in the Earth.

Little is known about how much water the Earth contains as a whole, or how the oceans developed. Was Earth’s water delivered by comets, or did most of it degass out of the primitive mantle? Jacobsen investigates water in minerals and the role hydrated minerals may play in plate tectonics and the evolution of our planet into a habitable world.

The mineral physics research group at Northwestern works on a wide range of topics, including synthesis of minerals and new materials at extreme conditions, equations of state, composition of the Earth’s interior, spectroscopy of volatiles (such as H and C) in minerals, melts, and meteorites, cement mineralogy, elastic properties of materials, and design and synthesis of novel superhard materails. Much of his group’s research is carried out at the Advanced Photon Source of Argonne National Laboratory.

At the heart of our research, is the use of pressure to modify material properties, discover new compounds, and simulate conditions deep in planetary interiors. To accomplish this, we employ diamond-anvil cells to generate great pressures, now reaching the center of the Earth ~350 GPa.

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