Mueller, Sebastian

Place of Origin

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU)
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Theresienstr. 41/III
80333 Munich

Appointment Time in VERTIGO
2014-04-01 – 2017-03-31
Project Title
The causes and consequences of large-scale volcanic ash aggregation
Project Description

The focus of my PhD is on volcanic ash aggregation. It is a crucial parameter on ash dispersal after explosive volcanic eruptions. It plays a key role in state of the art ash dispersal modelling. Research on aggregation has been carried out within the last two decades, however many factors ruling aggregation efficiency are still not completely understood or have not been investigated as yet. To solve this matter, we sample a vast selection of natural ash aggregates from eruption deposits and analyze their chemical, physical and mechanical properties in the lab. We further collaborate with Glatt Industries in Germany, a company working in the powder aggregation and fluidization sector for pharmaceutical or food industries. Their fluidization equipment allows us to simulate natural fluidization processes in the lab at small scale and evaluate critical parameters that control aggregation. The final aim is to present a model, based on both the analysis of natural samples and experimental ash aggregation campaigns that can explain why, how, when and where aggregation can occur during explosive volcanic eruptions.

Research Interests

My research interests are in the various processes that influence the genesis and destruction of volcanic ash. After primary magma fragmentation, the magmatic clasts (ash, if small enough) can be comminuted further by abrasion or collision processes, or agglomerate with other ash particles to cm-sized ash aggregates.
I am further interested in volcanic risk mitigation strategies and the monitoring of active volcanoes. How can real time monitoring of volcanoes be improved to protect inhabitants that live in the vicinity of the volcano? What strategies can be developed to protect inhabitants and tourists from volcanic hazards such as lava flows, lahars, ash fall, pyroclastic density currents, or strong degassing?

About me

I was born in Munich, Germany in 1988. After finishing school and doing my military service as a medical assistant, I did a B.Sc. in Geosciences at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich). During my B.Sc. I focused on Volcanology by doing several fieldtrips to the Canary Islands, Azores and to Iceland. For my B.Sc. thesis, I had the opportunity to work on Volcán de Colima, Mexico. Together with my supervisors from Munich (Ulrich Küppers) and Colima (Nick Varley) I worked on the magma ascent rate of the active Volcán de Colima.
In 2011 I finished my Bachelors and started a M.Sc. scheme in Volcanology and Geological Hazards at Lancaster University, United Kingdom. Doing the program part-time, I had the opportunity to do further internships. In early 2012, I went to Montserrat to work with the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) which is monitoring the active Soufrière Hills Volcano. I worked on a three-dimensional digital model of the volcano. After Montserrat, I travelled back to Colima and continued working further on my former B.Sc. project which allowed us to publish our work (Mueller et al., 2013, Quantification of the magma ascent rate through monitoring of a growing/collapsing lava dome at Volcán de Colima, Mexico, Solid Earth, 4, 201-213).
My M.Sc. thesis at Lancaster University employed abrasion and collision experiments of porous volcanic samples in order to study the ash generation efficiency of various processes. In turn, this allowed the inference of large-scale processes in volcanic environments. The dissertation, supervised by Steve Lane, is currently submitted (Mueller et al., 2015, Lab-scale ash production by abrasion and collision experiments of porous volcanic samples, Earth and Planetary Science Letters). I finished my Masters in late 2013 with Distinction Level and started my Ph.D. at LMU Munich in early 2014.
Besides Volcanology I am fascinated by Astronomy. I am member of a local night sky watching group and have my own telescope. I am further an enthusiastic athlete, partaking in Taekwondo for more than ten years and competing at national level in full-contact combats. A few years ago I started training for Triathlons, with swimming and running being some of my favorite activities.

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