New Method to Reveal Earth’s History from Grains of Sand
Researchers at Curtin University have uncovered hidden details about Earth’s distant geological past by examining the age of ancient kun grains found on beaches, rivers and rocks around the world.
Working in the Timelines Group of Mineral Systems at Curtin University’s Faculty of Earth and Planetary Sciences, lead researcher Dr. Milo Barham says the research team has developed a measurement method that determines the ‘age trace’ of minerals known as zircon in sand. In this way, scientists shed light on the evolution of the Earth’s surface over the past few billion years.
“While much of the original geological record has been lost to erosion, durable minerals like zircon form deposits that effectively collect information about these lost worlds and paint a detailed picture of the planet’s history,” says Dr. Barham. “These include changing environments, the development of a habitable biosphere, the evolution of continents, and the accumulation of mineral resources at ancient plate boundaries.”
“This new approach allows us to better understand the nature of ancient geology and thereby reconstruct the alignment and movement of tectonic plates on Earth over time.
“Earth’s beaches have recorded with high accuracy the detailed history of our planet’s geological history. Billions of years of Earth history have left their mark on the geology of every grain of sand. Our method helps uncover this information.”
Co-author Professor Chris Kirkland, who also works in the Timelines Group of Mineral Systems at Curtin University’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, says the new method could be used to reveal Earth’s history in detail that was not possible before.