Professor Solomatov’s current research interests include dynamics of Earth's and planetary interiors, the origin of plate tectonics, and the evolution of magma oceans.
Professor Solomatov studies the dynamics and evolution of planetary interiors. On geologic time scales, solid planetary mantles can slowly flow like fluids, but they are not ordinary fluids like water. Their behavior is complex and depends on composition, temperature, pressure, mineral grain size, and other factors. Planetary interiors can exhibit phenomena that are not observed in ordinary fluids, and yet they are observed on Earth and other planets. Professor Solomatov investigates these complex fluid dynamical phenomena and how these phenomena shape planetary evolution. These include, for example, stagnant lid convection, a type of convection that occurs beneath planetary lithospheres. Stagnant lid convection is relevant to Mars, Venus, Mercury, and other planetary bodies in the Solar System. Plate tectonics, which is a special type of convection that occurs only on the Earth, remains the most difficult one to understand. One of the research goals is to explain why the Earth has plate tectonics and what conditions are required for plate tectonics to occur on a planet. A related problem is the early history of the Earth and other planets, about 4.5 billion years ago, when the planets were almost completely molten due to collisions with bodies as large as the planets themselves. Professor Solomatov’s research focuses on a better understanding of what happened during this relatively short but critical span of time in early planetary history, how planetary interiors crystallized and differentiated into various parts, and how plate tectonics started. His tools range from purely theoretical methods to numerical simulations on high-performance computing clusters.