WUSTL geologist Philip Skemer has built a custom-made rock-formation appartus that traps a rock sample between tungsten carbide anvils about a quarter inch in diameter within a 100-ton hydraulic press and then twists the sample slowly from below. His target pressure is six giga-pascals, the pressure 250 kilometers down, to the base of the tectonic plates. He will use the apparatus to determine through experiment the mechanisms that lead mantle rocks to flow, dragging the tectonic plates with them.
Philip Skemer, PhD, assistant professor in the department of earth and planetary science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has won a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER award) from the National Science Foundation. He will use the award for a series of experiments in which rock samples will be deformed at the extreme temperatures and pressures they encounter along the boundaries where plates collide.