An international team of researchers have discovered an uber-rare quasicrystal in a Siberian Khatyrka meteorite that was discovered in 2011.
The discovery is highly important for it is only the third time that a quasicrystal has been found naturally. Researchers have developed more than 100 quasicrystals in labs, but natural formations of quasicrystals haven’t been observed on Earth and only twice previously in a meteorite – in the same Khatyrka meteorite.
A quasicrystal is a unique atomic structure, which showcases properties of a shapeless solid and symmetrical quality of a crystal. They are almost crystals, but the major difference is that they don’t follow the rules followed by crystals. In crystals atoms are arranged in perfectly neat patterns; however, in case of quasicrystals patterns never repeat.
Researchers behind the study published in Scientific Reports say that quasicrystal is a new class of material that the scientific community has come across fairly recently. Quasicrystals put a huge dent in the belief that scientists knew about every possible shapes and form of matter that could be made and that quasicrystals are impossible to be formed.
Study’s lead author Professor Paul Steinhardt, from Princeton University, revealed that the quasicrystal was found in the same meteorite in which the previous two quasicrystals were discovered. It was also found that all these crystals had a distinctive atomic structure and the latest discovered quasicrystal got a new chemical composition which is being observed for the first time. Researchers used an electron microprobethe to confirm that it was a never before seen quasicrystal. They add in the report that the quasicrystal was formed naturally and is likely a result of impact-induced shock in space.
“We report the first occurrence of an icosahedral quasicrystal with composition Al62.0(8)Cu31.2(8)Fe6.8(4), outside the measured equilibrium stability field at standard pressure of the previously reported Al-Cu-Fe quasicrystal (AlxCuyFez, with x between 61 and 64, y between 24 and 26, z between 12 and 13%)”, researchers note in the study. In simple terms the new quasicrystal comprises of a blend of iron, copper and aluminium atoms.