A new type of mineral that is harder than diamond has been discovered in a meteorite, Russian scientists claim.
A meteorite discovered in Russia in 2016 has been analyzed and found to contain a mysterious new mineral that is as hard as diamonds. Did some alien lose the engagement ring he planned to give his girlfriend while traveling through an asteroid belt?
The space rock was found by gold hunters in Siberia two years ago, and extensive tests have been carried out ever since.
Experts say it contains a never-before-seen substance that formed in space, which they have named ‘uakitite‘.
Boris Shustov, head of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Science, said it was fairly common to find new minerals in meteorites because they form under vastly different conditions to those on Earth.
He said: ‘This is a fairly common phenomenon due to the fact that a number of minerals, number of substances that can be formed and are formed under cosmic conditions, are not found on Earth.’
The meteorite was unearthed in 2016 in Buryatia, in southern Russia. The amounts of the new substance were so small, it needed to be put through special tests including electron diffraction instead of a traditional X-ray analysis.
The new discovery was unveiled by researchers from the Ural Federal University, Novosibirsk State University and the Geological Institute at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science.
Scientists said the meteorite had been subjected to temperatures of over 1,000°C (1,800°F) forming troilite-daubreelite associations, one of whose early minerals is uakitite.
A statement from the University said: ‘It forms isometric (cubic) crystals (in daubreelite) or rounded grains (in schreibersite). ‘The size of uakitite grains is usually less than 5 micrometers.’
Structurally, the new mineral is related to carlsbergite CrN and osbornite TiN. The physical properties of uakitite because of the small amounts have been difficult to assess due to the tiny sizes of the grains.
However, the researchers believe it has a yellow and transparent phase with a metallic sheen and is as hard as a diamond. A special laboratory has been created within the Ural Federal University to study the new mineral in more detail.
Participants at the Annual Meeting of Meteoritic Society in Moscow were the first to hear about the discovery as well further initiatives to develop studies in space mineralogy in a country which continues to provide rich meteorological pickings for scientists.