Study finds that Russian Quasicrystals may have come from space

Jan 4, 2012
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Back in the 1980's, a scientist named Daniel Schechtman was the first to describe a quasicrystal and won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery. Some looked on the idea of the quasicrystals as impossible at the time they were first described. The reason is that the quasicrystal doesn't have the symmetry that goes with normal crystalline structures.

Quasicrystals also have different physical and electrical properties when compared to normal crystals as well. In 2009, researchers from the University of Florence, Italy discovered quasicrystals in minerals sampled from the Koryak mountains in Russia. The mineral had a composition of aluminum, copper, and iron and proved quasicrystals could form and remain stable under natural conditions. However, it remained unclear how exactly the structure formed.

Scientists think they have an explanation for the formation of the mineral quasicrystal structure. Researchers now think that the mineral found in Russia formed in space and is of extra-terrestrial origin. Using a mass spectrometer the team found the pattern of oxygen isotopes showed the mineral was unlike known on Earth. The silica in the mineral only forms at high pressures according to the team of researchers. The finding hints that the mineral was either formed in the Earth's mantle or created from a high-speed impact such as what occurs when a meteor hits the earth.

[via BBC]


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