NHMLA Mineral Sciences Curator Blog
Fall 2016

New Laboratory Equipment and Research Initiatives

A Proto powder X-ray diffractometer (XRD) was recently installed in the laboratory. This instrument has traditional powder XRD capabilities, as well as elemental analysis using X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The new powder XRD expands Mineral Sciences’ X-ray capabilities by complementing the older single-crystal XRD that was acquired xx years ago. The new instrument supports ongoing research in environmental mineralogy and metal separation studies using nanoporous materials, and will serve as a critical component to new projects in alpine mineralogy.

The alpine mineralogy project is a collaboration between Aaron Celestian and researchers at Western Washington Univeristy, The National Center for Atmospheric Reserach, the American Climber Science Program, Univeristy of Hawaii at Manoa, University Nevada Reno, University of Colorado, and the Chemical Sciences Division at NOAA. The current phase of the project is focused on the Peruvian Andes, which contain the largest alpine glacial field in the world. Glacier extent is receding at incredible rates there as a result of climate change and land-use changes. There will be significant impact to people who rely on seasonal glacial melt as a source of drinking water, as well as to the health of local ecosystems. Aaron’s part is to determine dust mineralogy on an annual basis from over 100 locations in the glacial belt of the Peruvian Andes. This work will record atmospheric deposition of dust from natural and anthropogenic sources, determine provenance, and investigate possible effects these minerals may have on glacial melt rate.

ACA Meeting

Recently Aaron co-chaired two sessions at the American Crystallographic Association Annual Meeting in Dever, CO. The first scientific session titled ‘Mineralogical Crystallography’ (co-chaired with Nicole Valdez, Uni. Idaho) aimed to highlight geoscience research where crystal structure determination was a key component. Submitted papers ranged on topics from crystal chemistry, petrology, mineral physics, time-resolved spectroscopy, biomineralization, and mineralogy in medicine. Aaron gave a talk titled ‘In Situ Ion Exchange in Nanoporous Zirconium Silicate Gaidonnayite’ that discussed how gaindonnayite is able to absorb Cs in different ways depending on its local chemical/temperature environment. The second session was an undergraduate and graduate research symposium (co-chaired with Kim Stanek, Virgina Tech.) The Chief Executive Officer of The ACA gave a talk on the use and importance of crystallography to science and engineering.