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Double-diffusive thermochemical convection in the liquid layers of planetary interiors : a first numerical exploration with a particle- in-cell method

Abstract : Numerous planetary bodies contain internal liquid layers in which convective currents are generated by the combination of buoyancy sources of thermal and compositional origin. The strong difference between the thermal and chemical molecular diffusivities and the possibility of thermo-chemical coupling at melting or freezing boundaries create a convective regime that is much more complex than pure thermal convection, partly due to the potential occurrence of double-diffusive instabilities. Traditionally, numerical simulations have modeled the dynamics of the liquid part of planetary cores in a more simplistic way by neglecting the diffusivity difference and combining both fields into one single variable, an approximation that is convenient but maybe not relevant. However, distinguishing both fields and dealing with a large or infinite diffusivity ratio makes it compulsory to use numerical methods that minimize numerical diffusion as much as possible. In this thesis, I adapted a semi-Lagrangian particle-in-cell method into a pre-existing dynamo code to describe the weakly diffusive compositional field. I optimized the code for massively parallel computing and validated it on two different benchmarks. I compared the particle-in-cell method to Eulerian schemes and showed that its advantages extend beyond its lower numerical dissipation. Using this new tool, I performed first numerical simulations of rotating pure compositional and thermochemical convection in the limit of null chemical diffusivity. I explored the physics of pure compositional convection and addressed questions related to the existence and the dynamics of a stratified layer below the Earth’s core mantle boundary. In particular, I showed that the stratification could potentially be of chemical origin and proposed some mechanisms to explain its formation. In the case of a thermally stratified layer, I performed a scaling analysis of fingering instabilities, wrote the first steps of a linear stability analysis and ran a few simulations of fingering instabilities in the rotating case. The potential effects of the magnetic field and the coupling of thermochemical boundary conditions in planetary cores are finally discussed in this thesis.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 5:48:24 PM
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Mathieu Bouffard. Double-diffusive thermochemical convection in the liquid layers of planetary interiors : a first numerical exploration with a particle- in-cell method. Earth Sciences. Université de Lyon, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017LYSEN063⟩. ⟨tel-01679257⟩

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