2016: Year in review

PhD student Laura Miller at the Australian Synchrotron.

In 2016 the experimental petrology group comprised four members of continuing academic staff (Andrew Berry, John Mavrogenes, Hugh O'Neill, and Greg Yaxley), three postdoctoral fellows (Antony Burnham, Charles Le Losq, and Guil Mallmann), three technical staff, and 23 PhD students. We welcomed the arrival of Guil Mallmann (ARC DECRA) and two new PhD students, Laura Miller, working on the "Geochemical behaviour of As and Sb during planetary differentiation" and Nick Farmer, studying the "Mechanisms of H substitution in orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene and their influence on mantle melting", both of whom completed their undergraduate degrees at Imperial College London. We said goodbye to Prokopiy Vasiliyev who was awarded a PhD on an "Experimental study of the fate of subducted carbon" and moved to a postdoctoral position at Curtin University.

Two new piston-cylinders, that were constructed entirely in-house, have been commissioned and two more are nearing completion. These devices allow both temperature and pressure to be programmed and computer controlled.  This expands the number of operational piston-cylinders in the group to nine.  We have also placed an order for a JEOL JXA-8530F HyperProbe (funded by a LIEF grant in 2015) to replace our ageing Cameca SX100.  The new microprobe, which has a field-emission electron gun, will arrive in 2017 and will provide superior spatial resolution to a conventional instrument.

We were awarded two new ARC Discovery Grants in 2016: $315,000 to Andrew Berry (with Ian Campbell) on "The copper-gold fertility of mountain belts" and $476,000 to Hugh O'Neill (with Richard Arculus) on "Melting in the Earth and the origin of basalts". Hugh O'Neill and Andrew Berry also continued to be supported by ARC Laureate and Future Fellowships, respectively. The group was also successful with the award of beamtime for three experiments at the Australian Synchrotron ("Coordination and valence state of Ge and Ga in silicate glasses quenched from high pressure melts", "In situ XANES of U and Th in silicate liquids at high pressure and temperature", and "The high temperature geochemistry of Antimony") and two experiments at the Advanced Photon Source, USA ("The effect of pressure on the Ti-in-zircon geothermometer", and "The redox state of pre-shield stage magmas at Hawaii").

The research highlight of the year was a 45 page monograph by Hugh O'Neill on a new approach for the parameterisation of REE patterns (The smoothness and shapes of chondrite-normalised rare earth element patterns in basalts, Journal of Petrology, 57, 1463-1508).

A new initiative for the group is applied research in the areas of critical metals and mine tailings. To facilitate this activity and foster links with industry RSES has appointed Andrea Gerson, formerly of the University of South Australia, as an Honorary Professor. We are heavily involved in the Resources "Frontier Theme" of RSES and the organisation of a symposium on "21st Century Resources" (http://tectonics.anu.edu.au/21stCentury/24Nov.php).