Space Science Reviews

, 215:37 | Cite as

Experimenting with Mixtures of Water Ice and Dust as Analogues for Icy Planetary Material

Recipes from the Ice Laboratory at the University of Bern
  • A. PommerolEmail author
  • B. Jost
  • O. Poch
  • Z. Yoldi
  • Y. Brouet
  • A. Gracia-Berná
  • R. Cerubini
  • A. Galli
  • P. Wurz
  • B. Gundlach
  • J. Blum
  • N. Carrasco
  • C. Szopa
  • N. Thomas
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Ices in the Solar System


Due to its abundance and unique properties, water is a major actor in the formation and evolution of many planetary surfaces as well as a sensitive and reliable tracer of past geologic and climatic processes. Water ice is found in variable abundance at the surfaces of many Solar System objects, from the floor of permanently shadowed craters at the poles of Mercury to large fractions of the surfaces of several trans-Neptunian objects. With few exceptions, water is not found in pure form but associated to contaminants of various nature and concentration. These associations and the nature of the mixing and segregation processes that affect and control them are key for our understanding of some of the most important aspects of planetary evolution processes. The observation and characterization of water ice at the surface of Solar System objects is therefore among the primary scientific objectives of many space missions. The quantitative interpretation of remote sensing data in terms of surface composition and physical properties requires the use of complex physical models that rely on experimental data in two different ways. First, the models require as inputs the fundamental properties of the pure materials, such as the optical or dielectric constant. Second, the models can only be fully tested if their results are confronted to actual measurements performed on samples whose complexity comes close to the one encountered on natural planetary surfaces but which are nevertheless well-enough characterized to serve as reference. Such measurements are challenging as macroscopic ice-rich samples prepared as analogues of icy planetary surfaces tend to be unstable, the ice component being prone to metamorphism and phase change. The questions of the reproducibility of the samples and the relevance of the measurements are therefore critical. The Ice Laboratory at the University of Bern has been set up in 2010 to overcome some of these difficulties. We have developed protocols to prepare, store, handle and characterize various associations of ice with mineral and organics contaminants as analogues of different types of icy Solar System surfaces. The aims of this article are to present the context and background for our investigations, describe these protocols and associated hardware in a comprehensive way, provide quantitative characterization of the samples obtained using these protocols and summarize the main results obtained so far by experimenting with these samples. The current state and possible future evolutions of this project are then discussed in the context of the next generation of space missions to visit icy objects in the Solar System and longer term perspectives on future observations of protoplanetary discs and exoplanetary systems.


Ice Dust Analogues Photometry Spectrometry 



Most of this work was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, in particular under the NCCR PlanetS. Significant contributions to the funding of this project by the University of Bern and especially its Centre for Space and Habitability are also acknowledged. O. P. acknowledges a postdoctoral fellowship from CNES.

We thank two anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of the manuscript and their useful and constructive reviews. We are also grateful to the organizers of the Ices in the Solar System conference in Madrid for the organisation of a stimulating and fruitful meeting.

Supplementary material

11214_2019_603_MOESM1_ESM.docx (105 kb)
(DOCX 105 kB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Pommerol
    • 1
    Email author
  • B. Jost
    • 1
    • 2
  • O. Poch
    • 1
    • 3
  • Z. Yoldi
    • 1
  • Y. Brouet
    • 1
  • A. Gracia-Berná
    • 1
    • 4
  • R. Cerubini
    • 1
  • A. Galli
    • 1
  • P. Wurz
    • 1
  • B. Gundlach
    • 5
  • J. Blum
    • 5
  • N. Carrasco
    • 6
  • C. Szopa
    • 6
  • N. Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Physikalisches InstitutUniversität BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.CNRS, IPAGUniv. Grenoble AlpesGrenobleFrance
  4. 4.Boeing Research & Technology EuropeMadridSpain
  5. 5.Institut für Geophysik und extraterrestrische PhysikTU BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  6. 6.LATMOS, Université Versailles St-Quentin, Sorbonne UniversitésUPMC Univ. Paris 06, CNRSGuyancourtFrance

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