The first step to completing our research is, of course, collecting the rock samples from their erupted locations. Once we bring the rocks back to the Westminster College mineral separation lab, we start the crushing process. This allows us to separate the sub-centimeter sized sanidine and sub-millimeter sized zircon crystals from the bulk rock. To do this, we use a couple pieces of equipment. The first is a “jaw crusher” which breaks the rocks down from larger chips to bits that are one centimeter and smaller. We then pour this crushed rock into the disk mill which pulverizes the rock to less than half-millimeter. We sieve this material and then either hand-pick the sanidine crystals for the argon analyses, or keep with the mineral separation process for zircon extraction. That process will be explained in future blog posts!