Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Crystal evolution

tmp_13195-20150211_125659-1403420329I was recently asked by one of our lecturers, Dr Antonios Marsellos, if I would like to take part in some collaborative research involving Dr Marsellos, Dr Kostakis at the University of Sussex and Eddie Loukopoulos a PhD student also at Sussex to study Zircon crystal lattice at an atomic scale. Of course I answered yes!

I assisted Eddie with a series of tests using the X-ray Diffractometer at Sussex (this is used to analyse the structure of a material from the scattering pattern produced when a beam of radiation or particles (such as X-rays or neutrons) interacts with it). The work is part of new research aiming to publish exiting new data related to the Zircon grains evolution through time.

Although I didn’t have much experience of Crystallography when I started, it was something I was interested in. But I was very much in at the deep end when I arrived on the project! None the less, Dr Marsellos, Dr Kostakis and Eddie were all very helpful in bringing me up to speed.

The aim of my work in the lab was to gain physical and geometrical data at molecular and atomic level using the diffractometer, then using the Olex 2 Software observe the growth of the crystal structure within a theoretical unit cell. As we are recording data for groups of Zircon crystals which have a variety of ages, dating back as far as 268 Ma and as young as 18 Ma, and will include measures for a synthetic Zircon crystal (0 yrs), it should be possible to calculate an extremely slow rate of growth, demonstrating that the growth of Zircon crystals occurs in a repeating and uniform pattern through time assuming no thermal event after their crystallization time.

Although each crystal physically appears different when observing under the high resolution cameras, it is truly outstanding to see that structures occurring in the natural environment repeat with such regularity despite ever changing external factors such as pressure and temperature.

It has been a privilege to work on the project as the experience has been very valuable, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the project in the future.

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Stephanie Thomson • February 25, 2015

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