Tech Team Studies Rare Rock Type

Arkansas Tech University faculty member Dr. Jason Patton and Tech student Chris Marlow are spending their summer studying a rare rock type in an area of outcrops outside of Morrilton.

Patton and Marlow are researching outcrops of carbonatite with the hope their research will help provide more information about the type of rock.

“There’s been very little research about these rocks,” says Patton.  “We’re not sure why they are here, how extensive they are or if there is the possibility they may be important economically because of minerals that are in the rocks.”

Patton says numerous minerals exist in this type of rock that could make it valuable.  He adds, “These rocks are known to sometimes contain rare earth elements like lithium.  As we become less dependent on oil, we are going to become more dependent on rare earth elements like lithium because of their use in batteries. Therefore, these types of rocks could prove to be an important part of our economy.”

Junior geology major Chris Marlow is from Paso Robles, California, and is also working on the project.  He says he hopes to learn more about his chosen career.  He added, “As a scientist, I know I will be expected to perform lots of research.  This is a great experience that I hope will help me to better understand the research process.”

Marlow says he is most excited about working on the thin section samples, a paper-thin portion of the rock that shows the various minerals making up the rock.  He adds, “The thin section work is what I’m most excited about.  That’s where we will really be able to figure out what these outcrops are made of.  I know it will be a challenge though because so much is going on inside these rocks, but I’m excited to study them further.”

During the process, Marlow says he’s been surprised at what he’s learned.  He adds, “After I graduate I want to attend graduate school, and I feel like having the opportunity to do research will help me to be more successful.”

Patton says he hopes to learn quite a bit about the rocks this summer and is considering applying for a grant to continue his research in the fall.

Learn more about the geology program at Arkansas Tech.