Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso

Rheology, Planetary Interior

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1370


Rheology (from the Greek words ῥɛĩ (rhei), “to flow,” and λόγος (logos), “teaching”) is the science of the flow and the deformation of matter in response to an applied stress.


Planetary interiors and surfaces are composed of solid and liquid silicate  rocks, metals, and ices, which deform and flow under an applied non-hydrostatic stress σ (in [Pa]). If the applied stress is small, the material behaves elastically. This means that the material returns to its initial state after the stress is removed. Real planetary materials exhibit a plastic, nonreversible rheological component, in addition to their elastic behavior. In this case, the material does not fully return to its initial state after the stress is removed.

Plastic rheologies are characterized by a maximum stress, called yielding stress, above which perfect elasticity is lost. For nonelastic rheologies the relative deformation, called strain ɛ (dimensionless) and caused by a constant stress σ0, is time...


Mantle convection Planetary interior dynamics Plate tectonics Rock creep (diffusion dislocation) Viscosity Tectonics 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Jaeger JC, Cook NGW, Zimmermann RW (2007) Fundamentals of rock mechanics, 4th edn. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Karato S (2008) Deformation of Earth materials, an introduction to the rheology of solid Earth. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  3. Karato S (2011) Rheological structure of the mantle of a super-earth: some insights from mineral physics. Icarus 212:14–23CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Karato S, Wu P (1993) Rheology of the upper mantle: a synthesis. Science 260:771–778CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Ranalli G (1995) Rheology of the Earth. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Regenauer-Lieb K, Yuen DA, Branlund J (2001) The initiation of subduction: criticality by addition of water. Science 294:568–580CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  7. Stamenković V et al (2011) Thermal and transport properties of mantle rock at high pressure: applications to super-Earths. Icarus 216:572–596CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  8. Stamenković V et al (2012) The influence of pressure-dependent viscosity on the thermal evolution of super-Earths. Astrophys J 748:22 ppGoogle Scholar
  9. Watts AB (2001) Isostasy and flexure of the lithosphere. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)CambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)Institut für PlanetenforschungBerlinGermany