Modelling geological processes

A rock is squeezed under high pressure

Squeezing and heating a rock can show us how the minerals affect global processes such as earthquakes or mountain building. Minerals in this experiment are being heated in a radiant furnace to over 600 C.

We are studying the fundamental properties of minerals to better understand the geological, geochemical and geophysical forces that have influenced the evolution Earth and other planets, moons and asteroids in the solar system.

The dynamic nature of Earth results from high-temperature, high-pressure and high-strain processes acting upon rocks in a range of different geological settings.

The mechanical response of these rocks depends upon their mineralogical composition, and the physical properties of these minerals themselves are influenced by their chemistry, mineralogical texture and the prevailing pressure-temperature conditions.

By studying the geochemical and geophysical properties of minerals and melts we can understand the mechanisms that drive geodynamic change and influence a range of different geohazards.

Our projects

Early solar system processes

Understanding and measuring the crystal chemistry of meteoritic minerals may provide a direct probe of how the geochemical conditions evolved in the early solar system.

Strain partitioning between minerals

Dynamic, in situ experiments of deforming rocks enables us to understand how mineralogical microstructure and composition influences the mechanical properties of rocks.

Effects of mineral anisotropy

The ability for minerals to display different properties in different directions within a crystal has a huge influence on the development and distribution of stresses and strains within rocks.

Properties of high-pressure garnets

Measuring the high-temperature and high-pressure crystallography and physical properties of garnets will enable us to better understand the seismic structure of deep Earth. This project is part of the PhD studies of Eve Tripoliti.

Chemical properties of melts

The trace element signatures within melts influence the properties of the melt and can also be used to understand the geochemical conditions of formation and chemical transport resulting from melt migration.

A tiny furnace for heating rocks

This tiny 30cm furnace reaches temperatures of 1500 C, allowing us to measure the physical properties of geological melts (e.g. lava).

Density of chondritic melts

Using experimental petrology and computational calculations to monitor the effects of high-pressure on the density of chondritic melts will provide insight into the early stages of  Earth’s formation. This project is part of the PhD studies of Isaac Taschimowitz.

Extraterrestrial H2O hunters

With access to a collection of rare meteorites like Ivuna and samples from the Apollo missions, planetary geologists from the Museum are exploring new analytical techniques to narrow down where our water came from and what happened to it along the way.

Meteoritics group

We are exploring the origins and evolution of the Sun, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets.

Mineral sciences group

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