Rocks are the materials large volumes of the earth and other planetary bodies are made of. Understanding the properties and behavior of rocks over a wide range of conditions varying from the extreme pressures and temperatures of the Earth’s deep interior to the conditions of solar nebula condensation out in space is fundamental for the comprehension of planet formation, the geodynamic processes that shape the Earth and the functionality of geological materials in technical applications. Petrology is the scientific study of rocks. It aims at “reading the petrogenetic memory” engraved in the mineral contents, major and trace element compositions, microstructures and textures of rocks. Petrological research builds on sampling of rocks in the field, their characterization using instrumental analysis such as optical and electron microscopy, X-ray and electron diffraction, x-ray fluorescence and various techniques of mass spectrometry. This is complemented by synthesis of rock analogues and experimentation in the lab, and by theoretical analysis including thermodynamic and kinetic modeling. Petrological tools help to quantitatively reconstruct the rock’s petrogenetic history and to predict bulk material properties and behavior under the physical and chemical conditions of the Earth’s interior. Through petrological research key constraints are established for tectonic, geodynamic and geophysical models. In addition, petrology may be regarded as a „geo-materials science” dealing with technical applications of complex (geological) materials, which may be functional in many respects.

The petrology division of the Department of Lithosphere Research has major activities in

Petrological research across classical discipline boundaries

In collaboration with the Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology we pursue a project that aims at a better understanding of the interplay among fluid flow, deformation and mineral reactions. Micro-analysis and micro-imaging of fault rocks are adequate tools we provide to investigate hard-rock as well as soft-sediment deformation.

In collaboration with the Institute of Egyptology (University of Vienna) and the Department of Prehistoric and Medieval Archaeology we are actively involved in archeometrical studies, mainly focusing on technological questions and provenance analyses of ancient materials.

The Doctoral School “Deformation of geological materials: Mechanical-chemical feedback and the coupling across scales” represents a cooperation of the Department of Lithospheric Research, the Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology and the Institute of Mineralogy and Crystallography at the University of Vienna. Research is focused on the interrelation between deformation and chemical reactions. We study rock deformation using natural examples and experiment combined with state of the art instrumental micro-chemical, micro-structural and textural analysis, and numerical modeling.

We take part in the Doctoral school  “Planetology: From Asteroids to Impact Craters”, where we aim at unravelling the information content stored in the mineral content, chemical composition and microstructure/texture of meteorites.