About the Geophysical Laboratory

The Geophysical Laboratory was established in 1905 to investigate the processes that control the composition and structure of the Earth as it was known at the time, including developing the underlying physics and chemistry and creating the experimental tools required for the task. 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, as well as parallel studies of other planets of this and other solar systems from their surfaces to their cores.

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Washington, DC—It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of silicon when it comes to computing, solar energy, and other technological applications. (Not to mention the fact that it makes up an awful lot of the Earth’s crust.) Yet there is still so much to learn about how to harness the capabilities of element number 14.

The most-common form of silicon crystallizes in the same structure as diamond. But other forms can be created using different processing techniques. New work led by the Geophysical Laboratory's Tim Strobel and published in Physical Review Letters shows that one form of silicon, called Si-III (or sometimes BC8), which is synthesized using a high-pressure process, is what’s called a narrow band gap semiconductor.

High Pressure

Washington, DC— New work from a team including the Geophysical Laboratory's Guoyin Shen and Yoshio Kono used high pressure and temperature to reveal a kind of “structural memory” in samples of the metal bismuth, a discovery with great electrical engineering potential.

Bismuth is a historically interesting element for scientists, as a number of important discoveries in the metal physics world were made while studying it, including important observations about the effect of magnetic fields on electrical conductivity. 

Matter at Extreme States

Washington, DC—Recovered minerals that originated in the deep mantle can give scientists a rare glimpse into the dynamic processes occurring deep inside of the Earth and into the history of the planet’s mantle layer. A team led by the Geophysical Laboratory's Yingwei Fei, a experimental petrologist, and Cheng Xu, a field geologist from Peking University, has discovered that a rare sample of the mineral majorite originated at least 235 miles below Earth’s surface. Their findings are published by Science Advances.


Washington, DC—Human industry and ingenuity has done more to diversify and distribute minerals on Earth than any development since the rise of oxygen over 2.2 billion years ago, experts say in a paper published today. The work bolsters the scientific argument to officially designate a new geological time interval distinguished by the pervasive impact of human activities: the Anthropocene Epoch.

Planetary Science

Washington, DC—New work from the Geophysical Laboratory’s Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help scientists understand the period in our Solar System’s youth when planets were forming and their cores were created. Their findings are published by Nature Geoscience.

Upcoming Events

May 1, 2017
11:00 AM

The Geophysical Laboratory's weekly seminar series continues with GL's Keck Deep-Time Data Science Team.  They will present, "Deep-time, data-driven discovery and the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Event Host: Robert Hazen
May 8, 2017
11:00 AM

The Geophysical Laboratory's weekly seminar series continues with Joshua Sugar of Sandia National Lab.  He will present, "More Than a Just Picture: Answering Scientific Questions with Advanced Electron Microscopy."

Event Host: Suzy Vitale
Matter at Extreme States
May 15, 2017
11:00 AM

The Geophysical Laboratory's weekly seminar series continues with

Event Host: Alexander Goncharov