NanoCenter researchers exploit its facilities to characterize geological materials from earth and from space to gain insight into their history. They also investigate materials and processes that today drive the earth's geophysical and environmental activity, in part to anticipate what may be ahead. Maintenance of man-made artifacts is a related theme, embodied in NanoCenter research to use nanoscale processes to preserve priceless artifacts of cultural history residing in museums.
Over half of the organic matter that makes its way into modern ocean sediments is re-mineralized back to inorganic carbon by anaerobic sulfate-reducing bacteria. But because of a lack of isotopic fingerprints in the fine-grained pyrite-rich shale rocks (which are most typically measured), the antiquity of this microbial lineage is a question that has long vexed evolutionary biologists and geochemists who study the ancient Earth