The TIMEleSS project aims at studying interfaces in the Earth’s mantle combining observations from seismology, mineral physics experiments, microstructures, and wave propagation modeling. It is supported through a bilateral grant, from the ANR in France and the DFG in Germany. The project is led by Sébastien Merkel and Nadège Hilairet at the Université de Lille, Christine Thomas and Carmen Sanchez-Valle from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, and Sergio Speziale from the Deutsche GeoForschungsZentrum, Potsdam.

Project launch: March 2018
Duration: 36 months, extended until December 2022
Total ANR-DFG funding: 700 000 €

The active research period of TIMEleSS is now over, but we are still working on our datasets and publications so stay tuned for more!

Latest news

New publication in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

16 November 2023 | Posted in TIMEleSS news

Deformation Mechanisms, Microstructures, and Seismic Anisotropy of Wadsleyite in the Earth’s Transition ZoneFormer TIMEleSS student Estelle Ledoux is the first author of Deformation Mechanisms, Microstructures, and Seismic Anisotropy of Wadsleyite in the Earth’s Transition Zone, published in gold open-access in AGU’s Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

Rocks deep inside the Earth mantle are deforming plastically under the effect of mantle convection. In return, the way minerals accommodate deformation impacts the properties of the whole rock and controls mantle flow. The deformation mechanisms of upper mantle minerals have been studied extensively. The behavior of minerals found deeper in the Earth, however, still remains debated and poorly understood.

Wadsleyite is the high pressure polymorph of olivine and the major phase of the upper part of the mantle transition zone (MTZ) (at 410–520 km depth) and then is suspected to control the deformation of that region of the mantle. Investigations of deformation mechanisms in wadsleyite have been scarce and only made recently possible with in-situ measurements at relevant pressure and temperature.

Here, using in-situ deformation experiments, multigrain X-ray crystallography, literature results, and numerical simulations, we propose a new view of plastic deformation of wadsleyite in the Earth’s MTZ. We show that it will be strongly affected by both temperature and water content. We then provide models that could be used for the seismic detection of its anisotropic behavior and mapping mantle flow using seismic measurements.

Congratulations Estelle!

New publication in The Seismic Record

8 September 2023 | Posted in Publications, TIMEleSS news

On the Importance of Using Directional Information in the Search for Lower Mantle ReflectorsTIMEleSS PhD student Federica Rochira has a new paper! Along with TIMEleSS PI C. Thomas, Federica is the first author of On the Importance of Using Directional Information in the Search for Lower Mantle Reflectors. The paper is available in Gold Open Access in The Seismic Record.

In this work, Federica focuses on SS precursor signals. SS precursors are signals from S-waves reflected from structures in the Earth’s mantle. Those waves are interesting because they are sensitive to the local thermal and compositional structure deep in the Earth’s mantle.

She analyses how to model the location of the reflections of the wave and shows that a full account of the wave travel path can lead to differences of up to ∼150 km in regard to more simple geometrical calculations. These results hence indicate that the travel‐path deviations of SS precursors should be considered to avoid misinterpretation of mantle discontinuities and potentially reduce previously observed scatter in discontinuity depth.

Congratulations to Federica for the nice work!

First official release of the TIMEleSS-tools and first publication from outside users

19 March 2023 | Posted in Outreach, TIMEleSS news

The TIMEleSS-tools were developed in the course of the TIMEleSS project to streamline the processing of multigrain crystallography data from diamond anvil cell experiments. They were actively developed in the course of the project, guided by our needs for data processing, and used in all TIMEleSS publications involving multigrain X-ray diffraction. They are a set of python programs, open-source, under the terms of the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE, Version 2, and part of the more general FABLE-3DXRD project.

After years of development, we finally reach the time for a 1.0.0 release. TIMEleSS-tools were uploaded to PyPI and will now be easily installable on any python distribution, by simply typing those three magical words pip install timeless-tools. The latest and most up-to-date version will remain at our TIMEleSS-tools github homepage, but this release is easier to install for starting users.

This official release also come with our first user publication! Robin Fréville, Agnès Dewaele, and co-authors published a Physical Review B paper on a Comparison between mechanisms and microstructures of α−γ, γ−ε, and α−ε−α phase transitions in iron on March 14, 2023. It is the first non-TIMEleSS published paper that relies on the TIMEleSS-tools. Congratulations to all!

New publication in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

3 February 2023 | Posted in Publications, TIMEleSS news

Gay et al, Transformation microstructures in pyrolite under stress: Implications for anisotropy in subducting slabs below the 660 km discontinuity (2023) Earth and Planetary Science LettersNew year, and new publication for the TIMEleSS team! Former timeless PhD student Jeff Gay is the first author of Transformation microstructures in pyrolite under stress: Implications for anisotropy in subducting slabs below the 660 km discontinuity, published in the February 15, 2023, issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The publication is a result of a collaboration between partners at the Université de Lille (J. Gay, E. Ledoux, J. Chantel, S. Merkel), WWU Münster (N. Krug, C. Sanchez-Valle) with measurements at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (A. Pakhomova, H.-P. Liermann).

The ‘660’ discontinuity marks the boundary between the upper and lower mantle and is located 660 km below our feet. The is discontinuity often associated with a phase transitions in pyrolite, a model rock composition for the Earth’s mantle. In addition, there are ubiquitous reports of seismic anisotropy below the ‘660’ which are difficult to explain from a mineralogical point of view.

In this study, we implement multigrain crystallography X-ray diffraction in the laser-heated diamond anvil cell in order to track microstructures induced by phase transitions at the pressure and temperature conditions of the discontinuity, around 24 GPa and 1900 K. Before the onset of transformation, pyrolite minerals such as garnet and ringwoodite are isotropic and do not contribute to seismic anisotropy.  After the transformation, bridgmanite, the most abundant mineral in the Earth, displays a strong preferred orientation, which we attribute to growth under stress. Other minerals such as davemaoite and ferropericlase are also considered.

The results are used to model anisotropy in a subducting slab, with a prediction of no anisotropy above the ‘660’ and up to 1.28% (0.08 km/s) shear wave splitting below the ‘660’ and provide details on how detailed wave forms can be used to understand the geometry of stress at those depths.

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Partner institutions

Université de Lille CNRS   Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster  Deutsche GeoForschungsZentrum

Participating laboratories

Unité Matériaux et Transformations, Université de Lille Institut für Geophysik, Universität Münster
Institut für Mineralogie, Universität Münster Chemistry and Physics of Earth Materials, GFZ

Funding bodies


Agence Nationale de la Recherche Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft  Projet financé par l'ANR