December 12, 2014 Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the cosmos. With only a single electron per atom, it is deceptively simple. As a result, hydrogen has been a testing ground for theories of...
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Washington, D.C.—Silicon is the second most-abundant element in the earth's crust. When purified, it takes on a diamond structure, which is essential to modern electronic devices—...
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Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to...
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Tiny cages hold big promise. Understanding the chemical reactions that can create tiny molecular cages that hold other “guest” molecules—structures called clathrates—is key to...
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Minerals Love Life It was not until recently that scientists even thought about how the mineral kingdom may have changed over time. Traditionally classified by composition, structure, and other...
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Washington, D.C. —A key to understanding Earth’s evolution is to look deep into the lower mantle—a region some 400 to 1,800 miles (660 to 2,900 kilometers) below the surface, just...
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Washington, D.C.— Hydrogen—the most abundant element in the cosmos—responds to extremes of pressure and temperature differently. Under ambient conditions hydrogen is a gaseous two-atom molecule. As...
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Washington, D.C.— A team including Carnegie’s Malcolm Guthrie and George Cody has, for the first time, discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties...
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The Geophysical Laboratory has made important advances in the growth of diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD).  Methods have been developed to produce single-crystal diamond at low pressure having a broad range of properties.
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Alexander F. Goncharov's analyzes materials under extreme conditions such as high pressure and temperature using optical spectroscopy and other techniques to understand how matter fundamentally changes, the chemical processes occurring deep within planets, including Earth, and to understand and...
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Experimental petrologist Michael Walter became director of the Geophysical Laboratory beginning April 1, 2018. The lab recently merged with the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism  forming the Earth and Planets Laboratory, where he is deputy director. His recent research has focused...
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Anat Shahar is pioneering a field that blends isotope geochemistry with high-pressure experiments to examine planetary cores and the Solar System’s formation, prior to planet formation, and how the planets formed and differentiated. Stable isotope geochemistry is the study of how physical and...
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Germanium may not be a household name like silicon, its group-mate on the periodic table, but it has great potential for use in next-generation electronics and energy technology. Of particular...
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New research shows that a remarkable defect in synthetic diamond produced by chemical vapor deposition allows researchers to measure, witness, and potentially manipulate. 
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Every school child learns about the water cycle—evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection. But what if there were a deep Earth component of this process happening on geologic...
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Explore Carnegie Science

CLIPPIR diamonds by Robert Weldon, copyright GIA, courtesy Gem Diamonds Ltd.
March 31, 2021

Washington, DC— Diamonds that formed deep in the Earth’s mantle contain evidence of chemical reactions that occurred on the seafloor. Probing these gems can help geoscientists understand how material is exchanged between the planet’s surface and its depths.  

New work published in Science Advances confirms that serpentinite—a rock that forms from peridotite, the main rock type in Earth’s mantle, when water penetrates cracks in the ocean floor—can carry surface water as far as 700 kilometers deep by plate tectonic processes.

“Nearly all tectonic plates that make up the seafloor eventually bend and slide down into the mantle

Stock image of the transition metals section of the periodic table
July 1, 2020

Washington, DC— You’ve heard the expression form follows function? In materials science, function follows form.

New research by Carnegie’s Olivier Gagné and collaborator Frank Hawthorne of the University of Manitoba categorizes the causes of structural asymmetry, some surprising, which underpin useful properties of crystals, including ferroelectricity, photoluminescence, and photovoltaic ability. Their findings are published this week as a lead article in the International Union of Crystallography Journal.

“Understanding how different bond arrangements convey various useful attributes is central to the materials sciences” explained

April 15, 2020

Washington, DC— Carnegie mineralogist Robert Hazen was inducted last month as a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences—the nation’s highest-level scientific society, originally founded by Peter the Great. This is a rare honor for an American researcher.

The ceremony, originally scheduled for the end of March, was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, Hazen pioneered the concept of mineral evolution—linking an explosion in mineral diversity to the rise of life on Earth—and developed  the idea of mineral ecology—which analyzes the spatial distribution of the

Carbon-boron clathrate cage with strontium inside, courtesy Tim Strobel
January 10, 2020

Washington, DC— A long-sought-after class of “superdiamond” carbon-based materials with tunable mechanical and electronic properties was predicted and synthesized by Carnegie’s Li Zhu and Timothy Strobel. Their work is published by Science Advances.

Carbon is the fourth-most-abundant element in the universe and is fundamental to life as we know it. It is unrivaled in its ability to form stable structures, both alone and with other elements.

A material’s properties are determined by how its atoms are bonded and the structural arrangements that these bonds create. For carbon-based materials, the type of bonding makes the difference between the

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The Geophysical Laboratory has made important advances in the growth of diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD).  Methods have been developed to produce single-crystal diamond at low pressure having a broad range of properties.

Sally June Tracy applies cutting-edge experimental and analytical techniques to understand the fundamental physical behavior of materials at extreme conditions. She uses dynamic compression techniques with high-flux X-ray sources to probe the structural changes and phase transitions in materials at conditions that mimic impacts and the interiors of terrestrial and exoplanets. She is also an expert in nuclear resonant scattering and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. She uses these techniques to understand novel behavior at the electronic level.  Tracy received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of

Timothy Strobel subjects materials to high-pressures to understand chemical processes  and interactions, and to create new, advanced energy-related materials.

For instance, silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and a mainstay of the electronics industry. But normal silicon is not optimal for solar energy. In its conventional crystalline form, silicon is relatively inefficient at absorbing the wavelengths most prevalent in sunlight.  Strobel made a discovery that may turn things around.  Using the high-pressure techniques pioneered at Carnegie, he created a novel form of silicon with its atoms arranged in a cage-like structure. Unlike

Scientists simulate the high pressures and temperatures of planetary interiors to measure their physical properties. Yingwei Fei studies the composition and structure of planetary interiors with high-pressure instrumentation including the multianvil apparatus, the piston cylinder, and the diamond anvil cell. 

The Earth was formed through energetic and dynamic processes. Giant impacts, radioactive elements, and gravitational energy heated the  planet in its early stage, melting materials and paving the way for the silicate mantle and metallic core to separate.  As the planet cooled and solidified geochemical and geophysical “fingerprints” resulted from

Anat Shahar is pioneering a field that blends isotope geochemistry with high-pressure experiments to examine planetary cores and the Solar System’s formation, prior to planet formation, and how the planets formed and differentiated. Stable isotope geochemistry is the study of how physical and chemical processes can cause isotopes—atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons-- to separate (called isotopic fractionation). Experimental petrology is a lab-based approach to increasing the pressure and temperature of materials to simulate conditions in the interior Earth or other planetary bodies.

Rocks and meteorites consist of isotopes that contain chemical