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Our Research

Distinct formation histories of the Earth’s deep mantle domains

Posted 31 August 2020

Published in Nature Geoscience last month by Luc Doucet et al., members of our Earth Dynamics group have presented compelling geochemical evidence to suggest that the Earth’s deep mantle is divided into two distinctive, long-lived domains centred on the Pacific Ocean and African continent, respectively. Characterised by low seismic shear wave velocities and sampled periodically by deep-seated plumes leading to surface hot-spot volcanism, the two domains have distinct geochemical signatures, with the African domain showing relative enrichment from subducted continental lithosphere associated with the formation and breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent.

Read more or listen to Luc’s seminar on this topic here.

State-of-the-art SIMS instrument to replace old workhorse SHRIMP

Posted 13 August 2020

Announced last week, the Western Australian State Government has provided the necessary balance of funding to enable Curtin University to acquire a new high-resolution ion microprobe. Replacing one of our 25-year old SHRIMPs in the John de Laeter Centre, the new instrument will facilitate both ongoing and exciting new geochemical research projects by TIGeR and allied research groups at Curtin. SIMS instruments (Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometers) are capable of quantitative isotope analysis and imaging of mineral grains down to the sub-micron scale.

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SIMS ion images of a 20 micron apatite inclusion in an ancient zircon grain.
SIMS ion images of a 20 micron apatite inclusion in an ancient zircon grain.

TIGeR leads new Critical Minerals initiative on Rare Earth Elements

Posted 22 July 2020

TIGeR researchers are taking the lead on a new collaborative project at Curtin investigating aspects of Australia’s supply and production of Rare Earth Elements (REE).  Individual Rare Earth metals and their compounds are critical, as in vital, to modern technologies such as computer components, powerful magnets, batteries and electric vehicles.

This initiative assembles a team of geochemists, microbiologists, chemical and metallurgical engineers, molecular modellers and sustainability experts across three Curtin campuses to work collaboratively on innovative solutions to a range of issues affecting Australia’s supply chain for REE.  Five TIGeR researchers are involved – Pete Kinny, Katy Evans, Elizabeth Watkin, Julian Gale and Chris Kirkland, out of a team of thirteen.  Our work will include life-cycle analysis, dating and geochemical fingerprinting of REE ores, optimisation of REE-bearing phosphate mineral beneficiation by flotation, cleaner microbial-enhanced metal extraction processes and efficient hydrometallurgical recovery.

The project was made possible by an internal Cross-Faculty, Cross-Campus funding scheme, and is part of a broader Critical Minerals research focus at Curtin that includes leadership in both the Future Battery Industries and the Reliable Affordable Clean Energy (RACE) for 2030 Collaborative Research Centres.

REE Mine
REE mine at Mount Weld, WA. Source: Lynas Corporation Limited.