Simon Hunt

Simon Hunt


  • Department of Materials,
    University of Manchester,
    Sackville Street Building,
    M1 3BB

    United Kingdom

  • The University of Manchester at Harwell
    Diamond Light Source
    OX11 0DE

    United Kingdom

Personal profile


My research is interested in the behaviour and evolution of the Earth over geological time. Heat in the Earth's interior drives convection in the solid mantle which manifests at the surface as plate tectonics as well as the violent disruption of Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. I perform experiments at high pressure and temperatures to measurements the material and mechanical properties (e.g. rheology, thermal conductivity and anelasticity) of the minerals present in the deep Earth. These data are used to understand how they influence convection in the Earth’s mantle.


I received my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Natural Sciences (2004) and my PhD from the University of London/University College London in 2009. I then spent time as a post-doctoral research assistant in UCL and Stony Brook before starting a NERC Junior Research Fellowship in 2011 at UCL. This was ultimately followed by a NERC Independent Research Fellowship during which I moved to Manchester University to take up a Presidential Fellowship.

Research interests

High pressure material property measurements

Silica polymorph strain-rate vs olivine strain-rate. Figure 3b from Hunt et al 2019, G-cubed

Both pressure and temperature increase significantly with depth in the Earth. In response to these conditions the minerals that form the Earth undergo phase transitions, for example, graphite transforms to diamond. Each new structure has separate material properties which influence the flow of heat and material inside the Earth. I use high-pressure (>1GPa) experiments to measure the rheology, thermal conductivity and other physical properties at conditions present in the deep Earth.

Deep Earthquakes

Deep earthquakes occur exclusively in association with subducting oceanic plates at depths greater then 60 km. Below 60 km the pressure is too great for pure brittle sliding on faults to cause earthquakes, so other mechanisms must be active to allow them to occur. Possible mechanisms (e.g. dehydration embrittlement and their distribution are investigated by listening for 'lab-quakes', high frequency acoustic signals emitted from the samples during rupture.

Youngs modulus of zinc vs temperature and oscillation frequency. from Hunt et al (in prep)


Seismic waves are attenuated as they pass through the Earth by anelastic processes. Anelastic dissipation can be caused by phase changes, small volume fraction melts, grain-boundary sliding and many other processes. Comparing the characteristics of the different mechanisms with the Earth's anelasticity enables small scale physical properties of the Earth to be understood.

Experimental techniques

DT-Cup tooling. From Hunt et al 2014

I am also interested in the development of experimental techniques; expanding the conditions over which experimental measurements can be made and extracting the maximum amount of information from each experiment. I developed a new deformation multi-anvil, the DT-Cup, doubling the pressure range over which controlled strain-rate deformation experiments can be performed.


Areas of expertise

  • QE Geology
  • Mineral physics
  • High pressure experiments


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