Google Play icon

A new-to-us mineral

Posted October 31, 2018

A new mineral has been isolated from a sample of igneous rock in central Madagascar.

Reto Gieré, a professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, worked with European colleagues to study the sample, which they first learned of through a French mineral dealer who thought it had an unusual appearance. One of Gieré’s colleagues approached him, asking if he’d like to investigate further because the mineral displayed characteristics usually attributed to the pyrochlore mineral group, one of Gieré’s specialties.

Scanning electron microscope image of a hydrokenopyrochlore crystal. Image credit: Philippe Roth, ETH Zürich

“Since I have experience working with this group of minerals, I said I would love to,” says Gieré. “The mineral dealer was right; we saw we had a mineral that was interesting, and perhaps even new.”

The tan and beige material had a resinous luster. Gieré and colleagues analyzed its chemical composition using an electron microprobe, which images the sample like an electron microscope but also allows users to quantitively determine the sample’s chemical composition. They also employed X-ray diffraction to determine its crystal structure. Combined, the analyses confirmed the mineral to be a new species.

The team named it hydrokenopyrochlore: “hydro” referring to the abundance of water in the mineral’s structure and “keno,” which means empty in Greek, referring to the numerous vacancies, or open spaces, in its crystal structure.

Identifying new minerals is not entirely uncommon, with new ones found each year, but Gieré says hydrokenopyrochlore is particularly noteworthy because minerals in the pyrochlore group have properties that have been proven valuable.

“They can be used for nuclear waste immobilization, solid electrolytes, exhaust control in cars, fuel cells, and more,” he says. “This mineral group is of great interest.”

Researchers have developed synthetic pyrochlore phases in the lab and successfully incorporated radioactive materials into their structures.

“This immobilizes the radionuclides into a solid material,” says Gieré. “Pyrochlore is stable for millions of years, so this could eventually provide an excellent container for high-level nuclear waste, including cesium and even plutonium.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

Featured news from related categories:

Technology Org App
Google Play icon
87,029 science & technology articles

Most Popular Articles

  1. You Might Not Need a Hybrid Car If This Invention Works (January 11, 2020)
  2. Toyota Raize a new cool compact SUV that we will not see in this part of the world (November 24, 2019)
  3. An 18 carat gold nugget made of plastic (January 13, 2020)
  4. Human body temperature has decreased in United States, study finds (January 10, 2020)
  5. Donkeys actually prefer living in hot climate zones (January 6, 2020)

Follow us

Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Tumblr   RSS   Newsletter via Email