In 2009, quasicrystals were discovered in mineral samples from the Koryak Mountains of eastern Russia, a press release states. This finding by Luca Bindi and his team from the University of Florence, Italy first evinced that quasicrystals could form naturally.
But it was not until recently that scientists figured out how. The new study claims that quasicrystals originated in space and were brought to Earth by a meteorite.
Quasicrystals, special crystals with asymmetrical structures, were first discovered by Israeli researcher Daniel Schechtman, who grew them artificially in laboratories. At the time, his idea was so new that it earned him a Nobel Prize in chemistry.
But this phase of matter is, in reality, very old.
People once thought that crystals had to be orderly and have specific symmetries, fitting together like tiles of the same shape, study head and physics professor Paul Steinhardt said.
When quasicrystals were discovered, geologists declared their structure a natural impossibility. They had symmetries that were thought to be “forbidden for solids,” Steinhardt said. Even the specimens grown in laboratories were met with skepticism, as they were allegedly unstable and delicate.
Steinhardt and his colleagues started the study after the discovery in Russia in the stated hopes of proving that quasicrystals were as stable as regular crystals.
The group determined how these quasicrystals formed by analyzing oxygen isotopes within the crystal. Isotopes “act as a fingerprint or signature,” Steinhardt explained. “It tells you where the oxygen in your rock or mineral formed, whether they are on a rock, planet or asteroid.” The result of their test, Steinhardt explained, was that the quasicrystals formed on a meteoroid.
by: Catherine Lei
Read the rest of the article at The Daily Princetonian
About the Author: