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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences

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Details of Master Thesis Topic (Module D):
When lightning strikes: fulgurites in the Malenco serpentinite

Master Thesis title: When lightning strikes: fulgurites in the Malenco serpentinite
Description:Recent studies on ophiolites from Tibet have shown that chromite rich layers in ultramafic rocks can host very peculiar minerals such as diamond, coesite and silicon-carbides. These findings have been interpreted as evidence for highly reduced conditions and an ultra-deep origin of the ophiolites from the transition zone (700 km depth). On the other hand, high energy electric discharge experiments applied to rocks have suggested that similar minerals could form if rocks are hit by a lightning strike.

The Val Malenco serpentinites record peak Alpine metamorphic conditions of upper greenschist facies conditions. Sasso Nero and Sasso Moro are made entirely out of serpentinites and are regularly hit by lightning strikes. In this project, these two localities will be searched and sampled for partially molten rocks due to lightning strikes (fulgurites). A detailed mineralogical and chemical investigation of these fulgurites will be conducted in order to test whether peculiar minerals can form in ophiolites by lightning strikes.

The project will combine fieldwork and detailed petrographic microscopy combined with a series of advanced analytical techniques such as SEM, Electron Microprobe, Laser Ablation ICP-MS, FTIR spectroscopy, and might also involve in-situ oxygen isotope investigations at the SwissSIMS in Lausanne.
Advisors:Prof. Jörg Hermann, Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Daniela Rubatto
Specialities:EM, GEOL
University: BE

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