Ultra-Rare Quasicrystals Came To Earth From Space

A strange crystal with a molecular structure that should be impossible can be found only on a remote Russian mountain where a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite housing it fell to Earth. In short, if you are a rich eccentric looking for a rare substance to hoard, this is it. Via New Scientist:

Evidence is mounting that the only known natural form of a bizarre type of crystal known as a quasicrystal originated in space.

Like standard crystals, the atoms of a quasicrystal are ordered, but their arrangement lacks translational symmetry: a shifted copy won’t ever quite match its original. Such a pattern on the atomic scale was long thought impossible, until the Nobel-prizewinning work of Daniel Shechtman of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, who was the first to spot an example in an alloy.

Since then, the strange arrangement has also been discovered in a rock dug up in the Koryak mountains in eastern Russia in 1979, which is now part of the collection of the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy. Except for this sample, though, all other known quasicrystals had been synthesised in lab environments.

Last July a team of scientists led by Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University trekked across the tundra into the Koryak mountains on a quest to find the source of the naturally occurring quasicrystal. Based on the conditions required for the natural formation of quasicrystals, the team reported on their return evidence that the quasicrystal must have fallen from space.

Now Steinhardt and Bindi report that the 2011 expedition turned up further naturally occurring samples of quasicrystal (pictured above). And the samples back up their previous claim that the quasicrystals come from a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite that fell to Earth around 15,000 years ago.

8 Comments on "Ultra-Rare Quasicrystals Came To Earth From Space"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Aug 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    Maybe it was an effect of micro-gravity.

  2. justagirl | Aug 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |

    i want that.

  3. “A strange crystal with a molecular structure that should be impossible…”

    Always cracks me up when things that “should be impossible” happen. People and scientists with overly dogmatic beliefs assume they know what “should” be the limits of possibility; such a silly thing to say and think. And, of course, this delays progress. It should read “…thought to be impossible within the context of our scientific understanding at this time”, but of course the misleading description will likely draw more attention.

    Aren’t many – if not most – scientific breakthroughs attributable to the “impossible” happening?

  4. Rickenbacker4001 | Aug 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |

    Would make a killer RPG die.

  5. I must gain possession of this if I am to defeat Superman. 

  6. > Evidence is mounting that the only known natural form of a bizarre Earth originated in space.

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