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Planetary Geodynamics Research Group (PGRG)

Earth’s evolution, from the time of its formation to today’s complex Earth System, is the outcome of processes operating between the deep interior through to the lithosphere and atmosphere. The early stages of Earth evolution are deeply tied to planetary formation.

The Planetary Geodynamics Research Group (PGRG) at the University of St Andrews investigates these processes to enhance our understanding of the genesis and evolution of rocky planetary bodies, and the conditions required for the development of habitable environments. Our interests centre on some of most vexing and fundamental questions in Solid Earth and Planetary Science, including:

  • How did the Earth, its moon and other rocky bodies form?
  • Why are Earth and its geologic twin Venus very similar, yet very different?
  • What happed during Earth’s first billion years?
  • Why does the terrestrial rock record commence at 3.9 billion years?
  • How did Earth’s first stable continental lithosphere grow and evolve, in what geodynamic settings and what was the nature of crust recycling and the role of water in the generation of the first crust?
  • How and when did this continental lithosphere stabilize and emerge, form diamond-bearing cratons?
  • Why did Earth develop subduction-zone plate tectonics whilst other rocky planets did not, and what are the implications for elemental cycling between the mantle, crust, hydrosphere and atmosphere?
  • How do critical geodynamic processes combine to produce key metal resources (Mineral Systems) and what do such resources tell us about fundamental planetary processes?

The PGRG seeks to answer these questions (and more) via the development and application of novel non-traditional stable and radiogenic isotopic systems and chronometers integrated with geodynamic models, geochemistry and empirical and experimental petrology, all underpinned by field observations, to document the timings and rates of planet-defining geodynamic processes.

Key PGRG Facilities

  • EPMA: Jeol JXA-iSP100 electron probe micro-analyser with 5WDS spectrometers, an EDS spectrometer and BSE, SE, and CL detectors
  • FEG-SEM: Jeol JSM-F100 field emission gun (FEG) electron microscope fitted with a Soft X-ray Emission Spectrometer (SXES), EDS, BSE and SE detectors
  • SEM: Jeol JSM-IT200 SEM with EDS, BSE, SE detectors
  • Renishaw Invia Qontor Raman Microscope with 532, 633 and 785 nm lasers
  • Laser Ablation ICP-MS for in-situ analysis of trace elements and isotopic ratios (U-Pb, Lu-Hf)
    • These new microbeam facilities offer a unique capability for high resolution non-destructive analysis of materials including the light elements from Li to F. Additional access to TEM facilities and a FEI Scios DualBeam FIB SEM is available through the School of Chemistry’s electron microscopy unit.
  • Three MC-ICPMS and two quadropole ICP-MS with solution, GC, and laser ablation introduction systemsfor the analysis of trace metal concentrations and isotope ratios
  • A Spectro XEPOS HE ED-XRF for routine whole rock element analysis
  • A Philips XRD for phase ID of crystalline material in powdered samples
  • Piston Cylinder & High-T controlled atmosphere furnace. This facility is capable of simulating pressure-temperature conditions from 0–5GPa and 100–2000°C
  • Follow this link for all School Facilities

Key PGRG members

Dr Nick Gardiner (coordinator)
Dr Sami Mikhail
Prof Richard White
Dr Will McCarthy
Dr Bob Steele
Dr Paul Savage
Dr Batzi Fischer
Prof Adrian Finch
Dr Nicky Horsburgh
Dr Anouk Borst
Dr Will Hutchison