The Petrology Group uses a combination of innovative high-pressure and high-temperature experiments and computer simulations coupled with petrological and geochemical analysis of rocks to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth ranging from the shallow crust to the core.

Petrology is a core discipline in the Earth Sciences and a key part of the student experience. It underpins blue-skies research into the structure, formation and evolution of planets and the cycling of materials between the surface and the deep interior of Earth including the volatiles (water, CO2) that have and continue to control climate and habitability of Earth. In addition, igneous and metamorphic petrology provide ways to understand the timing, location and degree of hazard associated with volcanism and crustal deformation, both of which are active areas of research within the School.

Current research themes include:

  • Crustal processes (transcrustal magmatism, volcanism, deformation and the genesis of mineral resources)
  • Subduction and deep volatile cycling
  • Magma generation in the mantle and in deep crustal hot zones
  • Superdeep diamonds and their inclusions
  • Core formation and the differentiation of the early Earth
  • The physical properties of minerals and melts.

To support this research, we maintain a world class suite of experimental facilities, including 1 atm furnaces, cold-seal pressure vessels, piston cylinder and multi-anvil presses and laser- and resistively-heated diamond anvil cells much of which is designed and built in-house with the aid of the School’s well-equipped machine shop (with 2 machinists). We also maintain equipment for Raman and FTIR spectroscopy and rock crushing, milling, and mineral separation. The group has access to the School’s World-class electron microbeam suite and the University’s excellent high-performance computing facilities (Blue Crystal 4, Isambard) for first principles computer simulations of the properties of minerals and melts, which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our research. Group members are closely involved with cutting edge technique development at a variety of international synchrotron user facilities, including the UK synchrotron, Diamond Light Source (which is just 90 minutes away by car). The Petrology Group collaborates with every other group in the School and has especially strong links with the Geochemistry and Volcanology research groups. It also leads and participates in diverse multidisciplinary collaborations with other schools in Science and Engineering at the University and with external partners and institutions in the UK and across the world.

High-pressure and high-temperature research at the University of Bristol dates from 1989 with the establishment of the Centre for Experimental and Theoretical Study for the Earth's Interior (CETSEI) by Bernard Wood and Michael Carroll. From modest beginnings with two piston cylinder apparatus, a vertical quench furnace and three cold seal pressure vessels in a lean-to, the group has grown into the largest and best equipped experimental petrology group in the UK.

The Petrology group enjoys international collaborations with earth scientists from Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Turkey and the USA. Petrology research activities are funded through awards from UK Research Councils, European agencies, industry, and charities.

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