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Mineral Sciences

Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) image of the Odessa IAB iron meteorite, showing the internal Widmanstätten microstructure formed during slow cooling of the metal over millions of years in the interior of the meteorite's parent asteroid.

Mineral Sciences research seeks to understand the fundamental properties and behaviour of minerals in the natural environment, and apply this knowledge to answer important questions about the Earth and beyond. Our research focusses on the structure, dynamics and properties of crystalline solids from the Earth's core to the biosphere, and how these properties impact upon broader Earth and environmental processes. The Mineral Sciences group collaborates closely with colleagues from Geophysics, Paleobiology, Petrology, Geochemistry and Climate on a diverse range of topics, from the use of magnetic proxies to trace biogeochemical processes in modern and ancient sedimentary environments to the use of meteorites to understand the thermal evolution of small planetary bodies in the early Solar System (right).

We have a wide range of in-house experimental facilities for the study of minerals and their properties, including world-leading laboratories for microscopy, diffraction and spectroscopy. We use national and international facilities for neutron scattering, synchrotron X-ray diffraction and supercomputing, and collaborate extensively with the Departments of Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry and Mathematics in Cambridge. The group houses the NanoPaleoMagnetism and Elasticity laboratories for the study of magnetic and elastic properties over a wide range of temperatures, frequencies and applied magnetic/electric fields, the NMR laboratory for the study of nuclear materials, and extensive facilities for the study of minerals and high temperatures and pressures.

Topics of current research include:

  • Rock magnetism, paleomagnetism and environmental magnetism.
  • Elasticity and anelasticity of minerals in Earth's crust, mantle and core.
  • Advanced materials for nuclear waste encapsulation.
  • Mineral-water interactions at extreme conditions.
  • Synchrotron-based spectroscopy and magnetic imaging of minerals at the nanoscale.
  • Multi-scale, multi-dimensional and multi-modal imaging of minerals using X-ray and electron tomography.
  • Biomineralisation and paleoclimate proxies.
  • Nonlinear mechanical properties of mixed-phase systems.
  • Phase transitions in multiferroic materials, metal organic framework structures and unconventional superconductors.
  • Properties and dynamics of transformation microstructures for potential device materials.
  • Neutron, infrared and Raman spectroscopy of molecular processes in minerals.

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds in geology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and materials science. Applications for PhD projects can be made either through the Cambridge Earth System Science NERC DTP or the Imperial, Cambridge, Open University EPSRC CDT in Nuclear Energy.


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