The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Dr. Ilya Kupenko an "ERC Starting Grant". The research project "Light elements in the core" (LECOR), which the scientist plans to carry out over the next five years at the Institute of Mineralogy at the University of Münster with the help of EU funding of around two million euros, comes from the field of mineral physics. The ERC awards funding on the basis of the scientific excellence of the applicants and the proposed project. The research grant is among the most prestigious awards of its kind in Europe.
The aim of the project is to determine the composition of the Earth's core. For this purpose, the scientists are primarily investigating the so-called light elements. These include hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, silicon and sulfur. "We know that the core is five to seven percent less dense than the pure iron-nickel alloy at near-core conditions. But we don't know which elements are additionally there," explains Ilya Kupenko. To this end, the team is extending state-of-the-art measurement techniques. In the upcoming months, they will conduct high-pressure and high-temperature experiments with the alloys and compounds and compare their properties with those of the core. These are already known from cosmochemical and geochemical observations, seismic data; geomagnetism, and high-pressure studies. With the upcoming laboratory measurements, scientists hope to better determine the composition of the Earth's core. "This would open up fascinating avenues to refine theories about the formation of planets in general," Ilya Kupenko underlines.
Ilya Kupenko, born in 1986 in Russia, studied physics at Lomonosov Moscow State University. After completing his doctorate at the University of Bayreuth while working at the European Synchrotron, he first worked there as a postdoc before switching to the University of Münster in 2016. His research at the Institute of Mineralogy is mainly focused on mineral physics under extreme pressure and temperature conditions.
The ERC Starting Grants provide financial support for young, innovative researchers who want to build up their own, independent research group. The ERC Consolidator Grant and the ERC Advanced Grant are two more of the ERC’s funding lines. At the University of Münster there are numerous researchers who have received one of these grants from the European Research Council.