Oetztal Alps in satellite image

Oetztal Alps in satellite image (Copyright: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2016, processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)


The aim of this key research area is to gain a deeper understanding of how planet Earth works. What is the nature and evolution of the Earth’s structure and dynamics in time and space, to identify long- and short-term processes shaping the planet, to explore connections to biological processes, and, in collaboration with the Faculty of Life Sciences, to trace the evolutionary history of ecosystems and organisms.

Insight into the processes controlling Earth’s evolution is obtained from integrating the present-day Earth in the solar system and inferring the geological evolution of the planet. Earth contains a diverse set of geological features originating from processes that are constantly changing and influencing conditions at the Earth’s surface. Processes like orogeny, volcanism, metamorphism, meteorite impacts, and erosion, take place in the Earth’s interior and surface over geological time-spans, and have long term effects on the formation of geomaterials, as well as on the evolution and diversity of life.

The methods used in this key research area are very diverse and comprise geophysical techniques, remote sensing, geological mapping and visualization, data modeling and structuring, radiometric dating, quantification of pressure, temperature and deformation conditions of rocks as well as their rates of change, study of material behavior under crustal and mantle conditions, geochemical analyses including physical and chemical properties of natural and synthetic material, advanced electron beam techniques, numerical modelling of geodynamic processes, and examination of (micro)structure and texture formation, Industrial applications arise naturally in the field of ore deposits and fossil fuels. These focus on the formation and recovery of oil and gas as well as in the development and design of new mineral-based materials, such as construction materials, refractory products, or functional ceramics.