Lena Noack

Junior professor, Free University Berlin

Main research interests

  • Mineral physics of planetary processes
  • Mantle convection and crust formation
  • Atmosphere build-up and habitability
Research profile at FU Berlin
TRR 170 "Late Accretion onto Terrestrial Planets"


  • Since 06/2017: Junior professor
    Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Earth Sciences, Berlin, Germany

  • 10/2012-05/2017: Post-doc position
    Royal Observatory of Belgium, Department Reference systems and Geodynamics, Brussels, Belgium

  • 10/2008-09/2012: Doctoral studies
    German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute for Planetary Research, Berlin, Germany

Freie Universität Berlin
Department of Earth Sciences
Malteserstr. 74-100
Room B133 - Building B
12249 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0) 30 838 636 94
Fax: +49 (0) 30 838 4 636 94
E-mail: lena.noack (at) fu-berlin.de

   Recent relevant publications

Outgassing on stagnant-lid super-Earths

We explore volcanic CO2-outgassing on purely rocky, stagnant-lid exoplanets of different interior structures, compositions, thermal states, and age. We focus on planets in the mass range of 1-8 Earth masses. We derive scaling laws to quantify first- and second-order influences of these parameters on volcanic outgassing after 4.5 Gyr of evolution. Given commonly observed astrophysical data of super-Earths, we identify a range of possible interior structures and compositions by employing Bayesian inference modeling. In total, we model depletion and outgassing for an extensive set of more than 2300 different super-Earth cases. We find that there is a mass range for which outgassing is most efficient (2-3 Earth masses, depending on thermal state) and an upper mass where outgassing becomes very inefficient (5-7 Earth masses, depending on thermal state). In summary, depletion and outgassing are mainly influenced by planet mass and thermal state. Interior structure and composition only moderately affect outgassing rates. The majority of outgassing occurs before 4.5 Gyr, especially for planets below 3 Earth masses. These findings and our provided scaling laws are an important step in order to provide interpretative means for upcoming missions such as JWST and E-ELT, that aim at characterizing exoplanet atmospheres.

Magma oceans and enhanced volcanism on TRAPPIST-1 planets due to induction heating

Low-mass M stars are plentiful in the Universe and often host small, rocky planets detectable with current instrumentation. These stars host magnetic fields, some of which have been observed to exceed a few hundred gauss. Recently, seven small planets have been discovered orbiting the ultra-cool M dwarf TRAPPIST-1, which has an observed magnetic field of 600 G. We suggest electromagnetic induction heating as an energy source inside these planets. If the stellar rotation and magnetic dipole axes are inclined with respect to each other, induction heating can melt the upper mantle and enormously increase volcanic activity, sometimes producing a magma ocean below the planetary surface. We show that induction heating leads the four innermost TRAPPIST-1 planets, one of which is in the habitable zone, either to evolve towards a molten mantle planet, or to experience increased outgassing and volcanic activity, while the three outermost planets remain mostly unaffected.

Volcanism and outgassing of stagnant-lid planets: Implications for the habitable zone

Rocky exoplanets are typically classified as potentially habitable planets, if liquid water exists at the surface. The latter depends on several factors like the abundance of water but also on the amount of available solar energy and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for a sufficiently long time for life to evolve. The range of distances to the star, where surface water might exist, is called the habitable zone. Here we study the effect of the planet interior of stagnant-lid planets on the formation of a secondary atmosphere through outgassing that would be needed to preserve surface water. We find that volcanic activity and associated outgassing in one-plate planets is strongly reduced after the magma ocean outgassing phase for Earth-like mantle compositions, if their mass and/or core-mass fraction exceeds a critical value. As a consequence, the effective outer boundary of the habitable zone is then closer to the host star than suggested by the classical habitable zone definition, setting an important restriction to the possible surface habitability of massive rocky exoplanets, assuming that they did not keep a substantial amount of their primary atmosphere and that they are not in the plate tectonics regime.

Water-rich planets: how habitable is a water layer deeper than on Earth?

Water is necessary for the origin and survival of life as we know it. We study possible constraints for the habitability of deep water layers and introduce a new habitability classification relevant for water-rich planets (from Mars-size to super-Earth-size planets). A new ocean model has been developed that is coupled to a thermal evolution model of the mantle and core. We find that heat flowing out of the silicate mantle can melt an ice layer from below (in some cases episodically), depending mainly on the thickness of the ocean-ice shell, the mass of the planet, the sur- face temperature and the interior parameters (e.g. radioactive mantle heat sources). We conclude that water-rich planets with a deep ocean, a large planet mass, a high average density or a low surface temperature are likely less habitable than planets with an Earth-like ocean.