A collage of astronomical objects against a black background, not to scale, from left to right: observation of a planet-forming disk, showing red-orange concentric circles at an angle; an asteroid with shape similar to a cube with rounded corners and appearing grey; a piece of meteorite cut in half, exposing a flat polished surface; a half-moon in the distance; planet Mars; a small slice of planet Earth.

Planetary Materials

The evolution of the Solar System is recorded in the elemental and isotopic composition of asteroids and planets. To unravel the processes and timescales of the formation and evolution of the Solar System, the research group studies the mineralogical, chemical, and isotopic composition of planetary materials in earth-based laboratories.

Samples include materials from asteroids, Mars, and the Moon delivered to Earth in the form of meteorites, as well as material from the Moon and asteroids obtained through sample-return missions. A current research focus is the exploration of isotope anomalies as tracers of mixing and genetic relationships of planetary materials – from the collapse of the Sun’s parental molecular cloud to the formation of, and late accretion onto, the terrestrial planets. The group also uses isotope variations to examine the processes responsible for the inventory of volatile elements in nebular and planetary environments, as well as radionuclide chronometers to determine the timescales of planetary accretion and differentiation.

The group uses state-of-the-art laboratories that allow for a wide range of analyses, from the initial sample characterization by scanning-electron microscopy to high-precision isotope measurements by different types of mass-spectrometers.


Paul Niggli Medal for Dr. Christian Renggli

The MPS researcher investigates volcanic eruptions on Earth, the Moon and Mercury and looks closely at the interactions between gases and minerals. more

Award for MPS Director

Award for MPS Director

November 14, 2023

Two scientific associations have awarded Prof. Dr. Thorsten Kleine the title "Geochemistry Fellow" for his contributions to the understanding of how the Solar System was formed. more

Asteroid Ryugu: A Traveler from the Edge of the Solar System

Iron isotopes in samples from asteroid Ryugu suggest its origin to lie beyond the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. more

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