Our Research

The continuous formation and destruction of ocean crust is a characteristic of global plate tectonics and the dynamic Earth. Our research group studies various aspects of this cycle, which has a decisive influence on the chemical evolution of the main reservoirs of our planet.

Our rock samples come from the seafloor and from land and underwater volcanoes. They are taken using research vessels and unmanned or manned submersibles, as well as during land-based work. We analyze the samples geochemically and mineralogically to better understand how ocean crust and ocean islands form and develop.

Furthermore, we study hydrothermal systems such as black smokers, where seawater reacts with hot ocean crust. Massive sulfide deposits as well as unique chemosynthetic ecosystems develop at these hot springs. The mass and energy fluxes of these systems are studied using analytical and theoretical geochemistry.

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Water sampler on the arm of a diving robot sampling a black smoker in the deep sea.
Fluid sampling of a black smoker by the ROV Quest
Close-up of a hydrothermal vent sawn open lengthwise from Brothers Volcano. The inside of the black vent glitters yellow-gold.
Sample of hydrothermal vent from Brothers volcano
Map of the study area located at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Central America and North Africa

Working Areas

  • Mid-ocean ridges where new ocean crust is generated by seafloor spreading and underwater volcanism (e.g., Mid-Atlantic Ridge)
  • Seamounts and ocean island volcanoes located above so-called hotspots (e.g., Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands)
  • Subduction zones where ocean crust dips into the mantle and is later recycled (e.g.​​​​​​​, Manus Basin)
  • Hydrothermal systems of these areas, where geochemical reactions enable chemosynthesis-based life

Click here for our expeditions​​​​​​​


  • Microscopic examinations of rocks
    Sample preparation, e.g. in a clean room
    Geochemical analyses of rocks by plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), etc.
    Microgeochemical analyses of minerals and glasses by laser ablation ICP-MS, electron beam microprobe (EMP), etc.​​​​​​​
    Microthermometry of fluid inclusions in minerals
    Thermodynamic calculations of mineral-solution equilibria in fluid-rock interactions and of energy balances in biogeochemical reactions.

Click here for our laboratories

A flow reactor inside a heating furnace.