Rocks are the materials that make up large portions of the Earth and other planets. Understanding the properties and behavior of rocks over a wide range of environmental conditions, from the extreme pressures and temperatures of Earth's deep interior to the conditions of condensation of the solar nebula in space, is fundamental to understanding planetary formation, the geodynamic processes that shape Earth and other planets, and the functionality of geologic materials in engineering applications. Petrology is the scientific study of rocks. It aims to "read the petrogenic memory" engraved in the mineral inventory, major and trace element composition, microstructures, and textures of rocks. Petrological research is built on the sampling of rocks, their characterization by instrumental analysis such as optical and electron microscopy, X-ray and electron diffraction, X-ray fluorescence and various mass spectrometry techniques. This is complemented by synthesis of analog models and experiments in the laboratory, and by the theoretical analysis including thermodynamic and kinetic modeling. Petrological tools help to quantitatively reconstruct the petrogenetic history of rocks and predict properties and behavior of rocks under the physical and chemical conditions of Earth's interior. Petrological research quantifies important parameters for tectonic, geodynamic, and geophysical models. In addition, petrology can be considered a "geomaterial science" that deals with engineering applications of complex (geologic) materials that can be functional in many ways.

The Petrology group of the Department of Lithospheric Research is mainly active in

Petrological research across classical discipline boundaries

As part of an international collaboration, we are studying the magnetic properties of plagioclase from ocean floor rocks. Plagioclase is the most important mineral by volume in the Earth's crust and is itself diamagnetic. However, plagioclase can acquire ferromagnetic properties through microscopic, crystallographically oriented inclusions of acicular magnetite. The magnetism of magnetite-bearing plagioclase is strongly anisotropic due to the shape and shape orientation of the magnetite needles, a property that is of key importance in paleomagnetic reconstructions. With this project we establish a close link between petrology and geophysics.  

In another international cooperation we investigate the ice nucleation activity of alkali feldspar, an important component of airborn mineral dust, so called “mineral aerosols”. Alkali feldspar shows a particularly high ice nucleation activity. We investigate the influence of complex internal microstructures of alkali feldspar resulting from segregation, twinning and hydrothermal alteration on the ice nucleation activity of alkali feldspar. With this project we establish an interesting cross link between mineralogy, petrology, atmospheric physics and climatology.

In addition, we conduct applied research in the field of crude ceramics and refractory materials in cooperation with industry partners.