Dr Owen Weller, Sidney Fellow and Director of Studies in the Earth Sciences component of Natural Sciences, has been awarded a £1.4 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) backed ‘Future Leaders Fellowship’ to develop new techniques to help locate rare-earth element deposits.

UKRI is the UK’s largest public funder of research and innovation, and its ‘Future Leaders Fellowships’ support talented people to tackle ambitious and challenging research projects. 

Owen has been awarded one of these fellowships, and plans to use it to develop our understanding of how rare-earth element (REE) deposits associated with ‘carbonatite’ and ‘alkaline’ igneous rocks form. These deposits are the largest primary source of REEs on Earth and it is important we locate more of these deposits, as REEs have ‘critical’ metal status, being both of high economic importance and having a supply risk. REEs are integral to a range of green technologies, such as batteries within electric cars and magnets in wind turbine generators, so locating more REEs will be essential to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon future. 

Owen’s work will mainly involve analysing the alteration zones around the igneous rocks (termed ‘fenites’), which are poorly understood, but have the potential to be used as ‘signposts’ towards viable deposits, as in other ore deposit systems.

Many congratulations to Owen for this well-deserved recognition of his excellent work.

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