William Durham’s research interests include laboratory experimentation to measure the strength of geological and planetary materials at high pressures and extreme temperatures. Durham’s current focus is in two areas: (1) flow and fracture of water ice (including its high-pressure phases through ice VI), and of other frozen volatiles (such as methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide) to help constrain models of planetary dynamics and surface geology on Mars and icy satellites of the outer solar system; and (2) flow of olivine-bearing rocks to help us constrain the internal dynamics of our own planet. The latter experiments involve a new kind of deformation apparatus called the Deformation-DIA and the use of synchrotron x rays to measure stress and plastic strain.
Current research involves measuring the strength of earth and icy planetary materials at high pressures and extreme temperatures (hot or cold). The work is mostly experimental and mostly done indoors. The overriding purpose of his experiments is to provide constraint for dynamic models, from deep interiors to surfaces, anywhere that strength of materials matters.
Durham received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1975. After his doctorate, he spent two years at the University of Paris before joining the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Physicist in the Earth Sciences Department. This is where he spent the majority of his career working on experimental investigations of rocks. He joined MIT in 2006 as a Senior Research Scientist.