Christoph Beier: Geochemistry gives us unique tools to understand magmatic processes and their timescales

Many volcanoes erupt in marine environments. Understanding the processes and timescales involved in their formation helps us understand the dynamics of planet Earth and use resources more sustainably.

What is your main research interest?

The focus of my research is the use of chemistry in the study of marine magmatic systems, such as ocean islands, mid-ocean ridges, and subduction zones. The composition of volcanoes is variable: How does this reflect processes going on at greater depths? There is a complex physical and chemical exchange between the Earth’s mantle, crust, hydrosphere and atmosphere: What is it like, and what does it teach us about geochemical cycles on a global scale?

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

There are two important applications affecting society:

First, many of our metal resources have formed, and are still forming, in marine magmatic environments. Understanding these processes enables us to use resources more sustainably.

Secondly, the impact of a volcanic eruption on our human environment strongly depends on the compositional signature of a magmatic system, which may change over time.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Put simply: the amazing range of dimensions, both temporal and local, that we work with. Geochemistry gives us unique tools to understand magmatic processes and their timescales, which may vary from hours to millions of years. It helps us to describe changes on an extremely small scale (micrometres), and, at the same time, allows conclusions about processes stretching over tens, hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres.


Christoph Beier is the professor of geochemistry at the Faculty of Science.

Watch Christoph Beier’s inaugural lecture as a new professor on 29 May 2019.

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