Hydrous minerals

An microscope image of serpentine

Spherical lizardite as seen through an optical microscope. The apparent 30-fold symmetry is actually made up of 15 sets of lizardite crystals offset sequentially from each other by 12 degrees, this image in described in (Cressey A., Cressey B. A., Wicks F.J. 2008) PDF

Understanding the distribution and geological significance of water within Earth helps us develop models of how water circulates deep within our planet, as well on the surface of Mars.

Our research focuses on how minerals control the movement of water, how water is stored in the deep Earth and its role in earthquakes and volcanos. 

Our projects 

Hydroxide perovskites

Reactions and transformations of water-rich phases under geologically relevant pressures and temperatures have an enormous influence geodynamical properties from near-surface environments to Earth’s mantle.

High pressure hydrous silicates

Chain and sheet silicates are highly relevant to geologically active systems. Changes to the properties to these minerals effects how they store water and can influence volcanic activity and earthquakes. 

the atomic structure of a silicate mineral

Two views of the crystaline structure of a silicate mineral, from different directions. The elements order themselves under high pressure in ways that enable them to retain or release water. In these diagrams, the blue dots are water. The diagram on the right shows the layers of the crystaline stucture.

Flat-layer serpentines

Chemical substitutions into the lizardite structure induces substantial distortions and imbalances to the local structural environment. This has dramatic effects upon the spectral characteristics of these minerals.

Hydrous sulphates

Gypsum deposits are commonly observed at the sole of many large-scale terrestrial tectonic dislocations and thrust faults, and are commonly observed on the surface of Mars. Physical properties and dehydration mechanisms and pathways can have a significant impact on dynamic processes in these environments.

Scientific Associates

Gordon Cressey

Kevin Knight

Andrew Thomson

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.