Zhang works with staff scientists Peter Driscoll and Cian Wilson to develop a suite of CFD code that integrates energy, mass, species, momentum, crystal motion, and phase change in a multicomponent system. It would apply to general magmatic systems like ore deposits, magma chambers, and Earth’s basal magma ocean.

A magma ocean is essentially a two- or multi-phase flow, with phase change and crystal motion. This system is quite complex, let alone its large scale and nonlinearities of transport properties of silicates. We, therefore, have not yet been able to model magma ocean evolution directly. This is what Zhang's team aims to do.

They start from basic conservation laws and set up a group of partial differential equations, closed by an equation of state. This system will be discretized on Cartesian and spherical coordinates by the finite difference/finite volume/ finite element method.

They solve this system and focus on the following but not limited to: convection patterns, effects of crystal motion on chemical differentiation, component-rich melt motion and its impact on the heterogeneity of mantle, the time scale of cooling, relations to crust formation and topography.