To better understand the mineral's origins, this project will involve
prominent geochemical work, which Grand Valley students will also help
carry out, Winkelstern said.
Recreating the mineral in the lab — necessary to understand its
original composition since a natural sample will have changed through
the ages — has been difficult, Winkelstern said, but his colleagues
have determined a way to do it.
"With a better chemical understanding of how it’s formed, that
helps us understand temperatures and other conditions when
forming," said Winkelstern. "One of the things that
interests me is that it is a resilient mineral that is hard to alter.
It can sit on the surface of the Earth and look relatively unchanged."
This research could unlock a vast number of projects around the world
to more fully study dolomite and the environmental factors in its
formation, Winkelstern said.
In addition, better understanding of the Earth's subsurface
temperatures could be helpful for understanding how oil and natural
gas are formed; they also get trapped in spaces within the rock, he said.
This potential application of the research is important, Winkelstern
said, but he said he is also excited about the potential knowledge
gleaned through this study.
"We're trying to understand some fundamental things about how
the Earth works," he said.