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How does plate tectonics work: From crystal-scale processes to mantle convection with self-consistent plates

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Network training can crack Earth science

A cross-disciplinary network is helping train the next generation of Earth scientists. It is also generating ground-breaking results on aspects of the 'how and why' of plate tectonics.

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The 'How does plate tectonics work: From crystal scale processes to mantle convection with self-consistent plates' (Crystal2plate) project is an EU-funded Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) providing a coherent training and career development platform for early stage and experienced scientists in geodynamics, geochemistry, petrology, fluid mechanics and seismology. The network consortium involves seven European academic institutions and four associated industrial partners. In addition to providing 10 early stage researchers (ESRs) and two junior postdoctoral fellows with experience-based training, Crystal2plate is looking to answer a key question in earth sciences: How does plate tectonics work? The platform places emphasis on experience-based training through cross-disciplinary research projects. The latter combine case studies in target areas with new developments in seismology, geochemistry, laboratory and numerical modelling of the mantle from the centimetre to the global scale. These projects together aim to answer a key question in Earth Sciences on how mantle convection produces and is modified by plate tectonics. To attain this objective, the network looks to explicitly consider interactions between physical and chemical processes as well as between crystal-scale processes and large-scale dynamics in the Earth's mantle. Notable research successes to date have been presented at major international conferences on Earth Sciences. They include the simulation of super continent assembly and dispersion cycles in a three-dimensional (3D) spherical convection code, the development of a new 3D visualisation technique for fluid dynamics experiments and new scaling laws for dynamics of free subduction. The long-term synergy among Crystal2plate partners is helping to structure related European research and training capacities, while increasing their impact and international visibility.

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