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  Quentin Williams

Quentin Williams

Distinguished Professor



Physical & Biological Sciences Division

Earth & Planetary Sciences Department

Distinguished Professor


Regular Faculty


Earth & Marine Sciences

Earth and Planetary Sciences

On Sabbatical, Fall 2021

Earth and Planetary Sciences

A.B., Princeton University
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Mineral Physics, Experimental Geochemistry

The Earth's mantle and core comprise more than 99 percent of the mass of the planet. As such, the physical and chemical properties of these regions are critical in determining the processes by which the planet has evolved to its current state. Quentin Williams's research is centered on experimentally examining the structural and thermodynamic properties of minerals, melts, and fluids at both ambient and high pressures. In particular, the melting relations of deep Earth materials, the ability of deep Earth minerals (and melts) to retain water and carbon dioxide, the mineralogy of subduction zone materials, and the structural constraints that determine whether silicate magmas buoyantly rise or sink at different depths in the Earth are among his primary interests. Such properties not only control the thermal regime in the deep Earth (and thus the driving force of plate tectonics), but also are vital in determining the mechanisms and degree to which the planet has differentiated.

The principal tool Williams uses to study these problems is the high-temperature diamond anvil cell, a device by which pressures corresponding to those present throughout the deep Earth may be generated. Because of the transparency of diamond, probes such as Raman spectroscopy are used to examine the bonding properties of materials in situ at simultaneous high pressure and temperature. Such data yield insight into the local bonding environments of ions in crystals, melts, and solutions, and the changes in these environments with pressure and temperature.

Evolution of the Earth, Thermochemistry of Geologic Systems, Comparative Planetology, Topics in Chemistry and Physics of the Earth

10/93-10/98 Presidential Faculty Fellow, National Science Foundation
1999 Excellence in Teaching Award, Phi Beta Kappa (Northern California Chapter)
2000 Mineralogical Society of America Award
2000 Macelwane Medal, American Geophysical Union
2000 Fellow, American Geophysical Union
2000 Fellow, Mineralogical Society of America

EART110A: Evolution of the Earth
EART134: Thermochemistry of Geologic Systems
EART206: Great Papers in the Earth Sciences

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