A very rare quasicrystals discovery was found from a Russian meteorite. It is only the third time in history that such crystals were seen in nature which leads to the possibility of more kinds of quasicrystals waiting to be discovered.
While quasicrystals can be made through artificial synthesis, the rarity of finding these materials in nature is extremely hard. However, it appears its rarity might only limit on Earth.
Rare Quasicrystals Discovery
Five years ago, a meteorite was found in the far east of Russia, the Khatyrka region. Geologist Luca Bindi led the team of researchers in examining grains of the meteorite where they discovered a piece of the quasicrystal.
Princeton University’s Paul Steinhardt, one of the research’s authors, told Motherboard that they have already found “three different types of quasicrystals in the same meteorite.” The third one, however, is a breakthrough as it has a never-before-seen “chemical composition” for a quasicrystal. This opens the door to the possibility of more quasicrystals to be found, especially in space.
But, What Are Quasicrystals?
Crystals, such as snowflakes, diamonds, and table salt, are made of atoms arranged in a near-perfect symmetry. But quasicrystals break the mold as they are considered the “impossible” atomic arrangement.
Dan Shectman, who discovered the existence of quasi-periodicity in crystals in 1982, was notably ridiculed for his absurd suggestion at the time and was even asked to leave his research group for “bringing disgrace.” In 2011, Shectman was honored with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
It is because, for a long time, scientists believe a strict set of rules are followed by the perfect symmetry in atomic structures. There is a believed four rotational symmetry for a structure to grow in a symmetrical and repeating structure: two-fold, three-fold, four-fold and six-fold.
Meanwhile, quasicrystals broke the rule as they are arranged in a non-periodic pattern with a five-fold rotational symmetry while maintaining its crystal-like structure. The latest quasicrystals discovery only proves there is more to discover on more types of quasicrystals and its uses that exceed applications for frying pans and LED lights.
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