Earth and Physical Sciences
Wellington is New Zealand’s science capital, and Victoria’s scientists – physicists, chemists, earth scientists and astronomers – collaborate with government science agencies and Crown Research Institutes on a range of research projects.
New Zealand is one of the most geologically active countries in the world with a landscape that is continually subjected to the combined effects of wind, rain, sea and volcanic and seismic activity. With expertise gained in this natural laboratory, our earth scientists work on a broad range of challenging questions, conducting field work throughout New Zealand and on every continent of the world.
Other researchers use the excellent laboratory and computing facilities at Victoria to look inside and manipulate materials, molecules and atoms and to study terrestrial and galatic magnetism and the geochemistry of supervolcanoes and meteorites.
Victoria’s many scientific research centres bring togther scientists from across the Faculty of Science to focus on fundamental issues in areas such as Antarctic science, nanotechnology and climate change and work on innovative new technologies in areas such as photovoltaics, nuclear magnetic resonance and radiation imaging. Our researchers play leading roles in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, New Zealand’s centre for research excellence in materials science and nanotechnology.
Find out more about specific research project in earth and physical sciences:
How Do Ice Sheets Respond to a Warming Ocean?
Nick Golledge, a senior research fellow with the Antarctic Research Centre, is studying glacier movement in the Transantarctic Mountains in an effort to find out how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) – the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth – is likely to respond to a warming ocean.
Cat’s Pee or Passionfruit? Making Sauvignon Blanc Taste and Smell Better
When Victoria University chemist Dr Robert Keyzers opens his lab fridge, the room is filled with the smell of cat’s urine. It’s not a pleasant smell under any circumstances – but especially not when it’s associated with wine.
Sauvignon blanc – bottles of which fill Dr Keyzers’s fridge – is New Zealand–s most successful wine, responsible for more than $1 billion of exports in 2010.
The Golden Fleece – Adding Value to New Zealand Wool
Silver, which is antimicrobial, is often used in wound dressings and the coatings of biomedical materials. But attempts to include silver in washable fabrics – like hospital pyjamas or sports socks – have led to problems with silver leaching out of the fabric and into the environment where it can upset the operations of wastewater treatment plants.
A new technique, developed by Professor Jim Johnston, from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, with his former PhD student Dr Fern Kelly, has solved this problem by creating nanoparticles of silver and chemically binding them to wool fibres.
Even Einstein Didn’t Understand Gravity
“Everybody knows what gravity is, but nobody quite understands it,” says Professor Matt Visser.
“From Newton to Einstein to Hawking, physicists have been developing and extending our ideas of what gravity is and how it should be described. In particular, physicists have spent the last 50 years trying to merge quantum physics with Einstein’s ideas on gravity,” he says.