Butterscotch wulfenite crystals. We examine the crystal structure of new minerals to see if they have any technological applications.  

How do crystal structures interact with the geological environment and how can society use them for new technologies? 

The atomic-scale characteristics of minerals influences larger-scale geological processes. These charaterictics also define the mineral's functional properties, which can be harnessed and enhanced for technological applications.

Geonomics is the systematics of mineral functionality at the atomic and molecular scale, helping us understand global processes and discover a path towards mineral-based technological innovation.

Studying the correlations between atomic- and molecular-scale structure and physical properties such as thermal expansion, compressibility, anisotropy, magnetism and optical activity, provides a critical link between the mineral sciences and technologically relevant functional materials. 

Our projects

Sillenite-like phases

Bismuth oxide based phases with sillenite-like crystallography show great potential as fast ion conducting materials. Small modifications to the chemistry of these phases can have significant effects upon their electronic and atomic structures.

Natural kagome lattices

Structures related to minerals such as herbertsmithite, claringbullite and atacamite possess unusual magnetic properties. They also exhibit a wide range of novel behaviour, properties and phase transitions, which can be harnessed for future technological development. 

Novel copper-based structures

Naturally occurring cuprates and nanoporous copper sheet-silicates are examples of copper minerals that have never been synthesized in the laboratory yet have potential applications in ion- and gas-exchange and catalysis.

An illustration of the crystal structure of the mineral diegogattaite

The atomic structure of the nanoporous mineral diegogattaite showing how water molecules are bound within a large cavity binding the copper silicate sheets.

Crystal chemistry of cobalt

Understanding the natural geo- and bio- chemistry of cobalt is essential to the success of the green economy.

Knowledge of its mineralogy and crystal chemistry drives more efficient extraction technologies and highlights potential technological applications. 

More information on cobalt projects:

Tungstates and molybdates

In addition to being primary ore minerals for tungsten and molybdenum, members of the wolframite and scheelite crystallographic families are used as advanced scintillator materials.


While silicate perovskites have a profound influence on the dynamics of Earth’s deep interior, synthetic perovskites possess a huge array of technologically critical properties from superconductivity and magnetoresistance to photovoltaics and photoluminescence.

Lead oxychloride minerals

With a wide array of potential chemical substitutions, minerals such as parkinsonite, asisite and damaraite form a distinct group of layered lead oxychlorides. Their crystal-chemistries are such that they possess a range of technologically useful properties with applications from pigments to batteries.

Three people standing in front of a railway sign saying colbalt

Museum researchers Richard Herrington, Paul Schofield and Agnieszka Dybowska in the town of Cobalt, Canada, where cobalt is mined. 


Minerals are produced by living organisms for their skeletons and shells and as a response to their environment. These biominerals may show us how to make unique materials that have technological applications. 

Four black and white images of smal round spheres under a microscope, you can see layers inside the spheres.

Chemical zoning in tiny granules made by earthworms. Many creatures restore their shells and skeletons using stores of amorphous materials. These amorphous biomaterials have great biomedical potential.

  • News and publications

    February 2021 Congratulations to Agnieszka Dybowska and Paul Schofield for successfully securing access to Diamond Light Source Oxfordshire, UK to measure chromium oxidations states in iron and manganese oxides

    Knight KS, Khalyavin DD, Manuel P, Bull CL, McIntyre P (2020) Nuclear and magnetic structures of KMnF3 perovskite in the temperature interval 10 K - 105 K Journal of Alloys and Compounds 842:Art155935 

    Knight K.S. (2020) Low-temperature thermophysical and crystallographic properties of BaZrO3 perovskite Journal of Materials Science 55:6417-6428

    Santos A.L., Dybowska A., Schofield P.F., Herrington R.J., and Johnson D.B. (2020) Sulphur enhanced reductive bioprocessing of cobalt-bearing .materials for base metals recovery Hydrometallurgy 195:105396 

    Johnson D.B., Dybowska A., Schofield P.F., Herrington R.J., Smith S.L. and Santos A.L. (2020) Bioleaching of arsenic-rich cobalt mineral resources, and evidence for concurrent biomineralisation of scorodite during oxidative bio-processing of skutterudite Hydrometallurgy 195:105395 

Core labs and consulting

Our research labs are available for complex analyses of mineralogical and palaeontological samples, including ancient DNA.

Mineral sciences group

The mineral sciences group manages one of the world's most significant mineral collections.