Inaugural Lecture by Professor Adrian Finch
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Wednesday 25 October 2017 – 5.15 pm in School III, St Salvator’s Quadrangle.
The Lecture will be followed by a reception in Lower College Hall.
Finding resources for the 21st Century: the Geology of Rare Element Deposits
The search for metal resources is one of the greatest challenges our planet faces. It is not only that we need tons and tons of well-known materials such as iron and aluminium, but we are ever more dependent on a bewildering array of metals that include the exceptionally rare and exotic. Elements such as tantalum, neodymium and europium underpin 21st century technology and if we are to continue to enjoy our apps, electric cars and go for MRI scans into the future, then we need to find further sources of a whole plethora of rare metals.
I am a geologist whose research is targeted at understanding rare element deposits. My research team is involved in working out how such rocks form and the pointers that would allow industry to spot them. I will show how geologists piece together evidence to reconstruct the conditions and mechanisms by which rare element deposits form. It requires me to understand plate tectonics, how volcanoes work and how water moves through the Earth’s crust – bringing together ideas from planetary to atomic scales. I will describe field studies across the globe, and compare rocks which were formed in the infancy of our planet with others that are (geologically) young. In doing so, I will provide insights into how nature creates a rare metal deposit, and, once it has been formed, how geologists might find it.