The Geophysical Laboratory was established in 1905 to investigate the processes that control the composition and structure of the Earth, including development of the underlying physics and chemistry and to create the experimental tools required for the many experimental tasks. Over a century later, this core mission has expanded to include the physics, chemistry, and biology of the Earth over the entire range of conditions our planet has experienced since its formation. Parallel studies of other planets of this and other solar systems from their surfaces to their cores are integrated into current research programs. Our research spans chemistry, both organic and inorganic, and physics within primitive planetesimals (the building blocks of terrestrial planets), experimental geochemistry and geophysics of terrestrial and planetary properties and processes from conditions of the crust through those of the deep mantle, the liquid core-mantle boundary and the Earth’s solid core, and interaction of the ancient and modern microbial world with a planetary environment. This work addresses major problems in mineralogy, materials science, chemistry, and condensed-matter physics from ambient to millions of atmospheres of pressure and temperatures from millikelvin to those greater than those at the surface of the sun. Through experimental simulations of processes from deep within planetary interiors to planetary surfaces as well as the analysis of primitive solar system objects and the search for life elsewhere, science at the Geophysical Laboratory covers the spectrum of environments that factor into issues related to the connection between planetary formation and evolution and the probability for the emergence of life.
Throughout its history, scientists at the Laboratory have developed new techniques for studying the properties of materials and their transformations over a broad range pressures and temperatures, including those needed for experimental simulations of Earth’s entire interior. We are equipped analytically for in-situ and ex-situ analysis, e.g. through atomic and molecular spectroscopy and extensive mass spectrometry often while samples are at the pressure/temperature/redox conditions. The Laboratory continues to develop scientific instrumentation, including high-pressure technology for use at the national x-ray and neutron facilities that it manages. Experimental protocols and instrumentation that could be deployed on other planets to search for evidence of past or present life are under development. These methodologies are tested at analog sites on Earth that exhibit environments analogous to those of other planets. Recognizing that fundamental research is closely related to the development of outstanding young scholars, the Laboratory conducts a strong program of education and training at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels.