Petrology is the science of understanding the origin of rocks. We focus on the origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks i.e. rocks that form at high temperatures and often at high pressures. The continental and oceanic crusts, the mantle of the Earth, and other planetary objects such as asteroids, the Moon and Mars are all made up of rocks. Petrology is therefore also the science of trying to understand the formation and evolution of these bodies.
In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to understand how minerals - the basic units that make up rocks - form and behave. Structure and Properties of minerals and melts are similar in many ways to those of ceramic materials used in various applications. As a result, Petrology shares many aspects with Materials Sciences and the subject has often been described as Materials Science of the Earth's Interior. It has strong connections to chemistry and physics and relies on tools of physical chemistry to answer many of the questions that arise in the field.
In our department we specialize in the study of rates of mineral transformations (kinetics, controlled for example by diffusion) and its use to understand the duration of processes that occur within the Earth and other planetary objects. We study volcanic rocks, plutonic rocks from the ocean floor, metamorphic rocks from continental collision zones, and different kinds of meteorites. Phase equilibria involving minerals, metamorphism at ultra high pressures, and optical properties of minerals are other areas of expertise in the department.