UCL Earth Sciences


GEOL0001 Earth Materials

Through laboratory work, this module introduces students to the chemical, physical and crystallographic properties of the major rock-forming minerals and to the use of the petrographic microscope for mineral identification.

Coordinator: Dr Dominic Papineau

Module Details
TitleEarth Materials
UG CodeGEOL0001
CoordinatorDr Dominic Papineau
Other Contributors 
Credit15 credits
Written Exam 
(8 practical write-ups: 450 words (max.) plus diagrams, 6% each);
(1 hand specimen test: 100 words, 12%);
(10 short question sheets, 4% each)
Pre-RequisitesNone for Earth Science Students
Maths & Stats Content and RequirementMinimal mathematical content. Simple algebra, Pythagoras's theorem required.
Total Number of Hours of Student Work188 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars12 hours
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes28 hours
Hours of Tutorials0
Days of Fieldwork0
Categorizing Student Performance Levels

Topics studied in laboratory work include:

  • Phase Diagrams;
  • The factors that determine mineral structures;
  • Introduction to Crystallography;
  • Introduction to Crystal Optics;
  • Mineral and Silicate Classification;
  • Olivine and Garnet Groups;
  • Al2SiO5 Polymorphs;
  • Pyroxene Group;
  • Amphibole Group;
  • Sheet Minerals;
  • Silica Polymorphs;
  • Feldspars;
  • Zeolites;
  • Carbonates;
  • Accessory minerals;
  • Oxides;
  • Sulphur minerals;
  • Other non-silicate minerals.


Through laboratory work, the course introduces students to:

  • the chemistry and physical properties of minerals;
  • morphological elements of crystallography;
  • the optical properties of minerals, introduced in conjunction with use of the petrographic microscope;
  • the physical, chemical and optical properties of the major rock-forming mineral groups.


Students will become familiar with the following concepts:

  • Phase diagrams;
  • Atomic Structure and bonding in crystalline solids;
  • Principles of structural architecture: including close packing, coordination, number, interstitial sites, coordination polyhedra;
  • Elementary crystallography;
  • Principles of crystal optics;
  • Use of the polarizing microscope.

In addition, they will have a thorough knowledge of the physical, chemical and optical properties of the major rock-forming mineral groups.

Practical and Transferable Outcomes:

  • Interpretation of phase diagrams;
  • Determination of crystal systems from morphological observations;
  • Use of the polarizing microscope to identify major rock-forming minerals;
  • Effective communication of information in writing;
  • Comprehension of scientific concepts, data and papers;
  • Independent study;
  • IT skills.