Images: New Lab Creates Beautiful 3D Models of Fossils, Rocks

The Princeton Rocking Grinding Lab

The grinder lab

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

The grinding machine sits on an isolated slab of concrete inside the temperature-controlled Princeton Grinder Lab.

Close-up of the grinder

Closeup of grinder

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

The grinding wheel spins between 2500 and 3300 RPM, depending on the material's hardness and composition. Grinding fluid is used to lubricate the sample and wheel, and to reduce dust.

A freshly-ground oolite

Rock close-up

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

The smooth surface of a freshly-ground oolite sample – a sedimentary rock containing sand grains coated in concentric layers of calcium carbonate.

Reconstructed oolite


(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

3D reconstructions of an oolite sample. Bottom:Image scan of the sample. Middle: Raw model data. Top: The segmented 3D mesh colored with the original textures and colors of the sample.

Reconstructed oolite, blended

Reconstructred ooilite

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

3D reconstructions of an oolite sample, blended together.

Fossil sponges

red specks in rock

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

Researchers at the Princeton Grinding Lab believe these red specks – cemented within a rock that is about 640 million years old – might be the fossilized remains of ancient sponges. If the researchers are correct, these fossils could represent the earliest evidence of fossilized animal life ever discovered. The team is using the rock grinder to create stacked images of the rock to see if the red specks do, indeed, look like sponges when reconstructed in 3D.

Computer model of fossil sponge

Model of fossil sponge

(Image credit: Princeton Grinder Lab)

A 3D reconstruction of a potential sponge fossil, created from images produced by the grinder.

Laura Poppick
Live Science Contributor
Laura Poppick is a contributing writer for Live Science, with a focus on earth and environmental news. Laura has a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Laura has a good eye for finding fossils in unlikely places, will pull over to examine sedimentary layers in highway roadcuts, and has gone swimming in the Arctic Ocean.