Mineral Science

Mineral sciences research focuses on elucidating the properties and behaviour of minerals and fluids at a fundamental level. There has been a planned increase in research in this area over the last decade producing one of the largest research groups worldwide. Main research topics range from the passivation of nuclear waste, the behaviour of water over short time scales, and the magnetic behaviour of small particles, to the elastic response of minerals in the geophysical context. The nature and breadth of these topics illustrate the need for interdisciplinary approaches to solve these highly complex problems. We have developed a wide range of in-house experimental facilities, and advanced computational methods and applications. We have used national and international facilities for neutron scattering, synchrotron X-ray diffraction and supercomputing. We collaborate extensively with the Departments of Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry and Mathematics in Cambridge. We are expanding our activities into micromagnetics and TEM holography for the analysis of magnetic field lines. A major strategic development is a new elasticity laboratory to measure elastic properties over wide frequency ranges in collaboration with our geophysicists. As many minerals are ferroelastic we have a strong research team in non-linear ferroic properties of solids which is directly relevant to industrial research of memory devises.

Topics of current research include:

  • Synthetic nano-tubes and nano-wires
  • Multiferroics (magnetic ferroelectrics)
  • Anelasticity of minerals in Earth's crust and mantle
  • The nonlinear mechanical properties of mixed-phase systems, e.g. mineral melt
  • Applications of Landau theory to the thermodynamics of displacive and order/disorder phase transitions
  • Non-linear elasticity and superattenuation of acoustic resonances in ferroic materials
  • Phase transitions in perovskites and related materials
  • Electron holography and tomography for the study of magnetic minerals at the nanometre scale
  • Relationships between phase transformations, microstructures, and magnetic properties of minerals in the context of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental proxies
  • Computer simulations of magnetic ordering in minerals using both atomistic (Monte Carlo) and micromagnetic modelling techniques
  • Experimental and theoretical studies of negative thermal expansion
  • Studies of dynamic processes in glasses and crystals, particularly those associated with phase transitions and high-temperature disordered phases, using neutron scattering and computer simulations
  • Simulations of adsorption of pollutants (e.g. arsenic, dioxin molecules) on soil particle surfaces
  • Environmental informatics
  • Materials for nuclear waste encapsulation, theoretical and experimental
  • Theoretical atomic-scale simulations of water and solid-water interfaces
  • First-principles calculations of nano-structures related to ferroics
  • Theoretical simulation of planetary matter
  • Methodological developments in ab initio solid-state theory
  • Oxygen conduction and vacancy distributions in co-doped pyrochlore and defect fluorite oxides


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