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Aberdeen team in top three in world for clay mineralogy

Helen Pendlowski, Ian Phillips, Steve Hillier and Nia Gray in the lab
"Our consistent track record in the Reynolds Cup demonstrates that we can legitimately claim we are the best lab in world at analysing clay bearing materials."

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute showed they are best in the UK and in the top three in the world in an international competition, which is considered by some as the world championship in mineralogy. At the 51st Annual Meeting of The Clay Minerals Society at Texas A&M University, in the USA, Professor Steve Hillier, Helen Pendlowski, Nia Gray and Dr Ian Phillips were awarded second place in the seventh international Reynolds Cup.

The Reynolds Cup competition, named after Robert C. Reynolds for his pioneering work in quantitative clay mineralogy, was established in 2000 and is held biennially. It aims to promote and improve quantitative mineral analysis in a sporting spirit and this year, 67 registrants from 21 countries entered into the competition.

As part of the contest, organisers send three artificially prepared clay-bearing mineralogical samples to individuals in commercial, industrial, government or academic laboratories challenging them to obtain the most accurate quantitative mineralogical analysis by any method or combination of methods they choose.

The team around Professor Steve Hillier are no strangers to the Reynolds Cup, having gained a top three spot in all but the 2010 contest; and that was because they were the ones preparing the samples after winning the 2008 event.

Professor Steve Hillier said: “Our consistent track record in the Reynolds Cup demonstrates that we can legitimately claim we are the best lab in world at analysing clay bearing materials."

He added: “Many of the properties of rocks and soils are controlled by the clay minerals they contain yet clays remain amongst the most difficult of all materials to study and characterise. There is no doubt that as oil and gas become more difficult to extract and unconventional sources become more important the energy industry will need the best data on clay minerals for their work. Our sustainable use of soils and food security will also benefit from improved understanding of the relationships between properties such as inherent fertility and soil clay mineralogy.”

Professor Hillier’s work is aimed at developing methods for clay mineral quantification continuing a long and distinguished history of clay research at the James Hutton Institute. The James Hutton Institute has a long association with commercial work connected with clay mineralogy since the establishment of the oil industry in Aberdeen. Through its commercial subsidiary Macaulay Scientific Consulting Ltd, it offers a world leading, integrated analytical service in clay mineralogy by combining X-ray powder diffraction, infra -red spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy.  The expertise in clay mineralogy at the James Hutton Institute is also central to the success of the short course 'Clay Mineralogy and its application to the oil industry'. This course is designed for oil and gas industry staff to help them understand the nature, properties, behaviour and occurrence of clays in the context of hydrocarbon exploration and production; and to demonstrate in a practical way how clay minerals can be identified and characterised using the primary analytical techniques of X-ray powder diffraction, infrared spectroscopy and electron microscopy.  The course will run again in September 2014.

More information from: Professor Steve Hillier, Section Head, Tel: 01224 395336 (direct line).

Notes to editors:

The James Hutton Institute is a world-leading, multi-site scientific organisation encompassing a distinctive range of integrated strengths in land, crop, waters, environmental and socio-economic science. It undertakes research for customers including the Scottish and UK Governments, the EU and other organisations worldwide. The Institute has a staff of nearly 600 and 125 PhD students, and takes its name from the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment scientist, James Hutton, who is widely regarded as the founder of modern geology and who was also an experimental farmer and agronomist.

Macaulay Scientific Consulting Ltd (MSC) is a leading analytical services and environmental consultancy company. With its well-equipped, state of the art laboratories and highly skilled staff, MSC provides a comprehensive range of analysis services for the oil and gas, environmental and food & drink sectors. As a commercial subsidiary of the James Hutton Institute, a leading research centre, the company can draw on 80 years of experience and knowledge in environmental and natural resources research. Through the delivery of assured analytical excellence, quality and an independent, un-biased approach MSC is committed to ensuring customer satisfaction.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/aberdeen-team-top-three-world-clay-mineralogy on 17/01/21 12:29:19 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.