In space science the solid surface of objects in our solar system have attracted much interest over the last decades. IWF dedicates its research to understand the evolution of the surface and the near subsurface regions of planets, moons and comets. The focus is laid in particular on the individual physical processes that go on at and below the surface of these solid bodies. Investigations apply to optical and electrical properties, as well as the thermal evolution, the heat balance, and the gas diffusion through the near-surface material. By studying the involved physical processes IWF also contributes to the understanding of the consequences for the atmosphere-surface interaction and so the influence on the atmosphere evolution.

The investigations have always involved international cooperation in connection with space missions where hardware contributions (Rosetta/Philae) or data modelling and interpretation (Cassini/Huygens, InSight) played an essential role. Observations have shown that the interpretation of many measurements is difficult because of the complex interconnection of the involved physical processes. Therefore, it is essential to study certain processes in an isolated way. This is achieved, on the one hand, by experimental investigations with suitable analogue materials, and on the other hand, by analytical models and numerical computer simulations. Currently all these methods are applied in the DACH project CoPhyLab (Cometary Physics Laboratory), with emphasis on laboratory measurements.