Close up of the new mineral merelaniite

October 28, 2016

In the age of fast-paced global communication, it's no wonder that teasing apart the anatomy of the new mineral merelaniite took a team from around the world. Most mineral discoveries start with boots on the ground--or, rather, below the ground. The Merelani mining district is a well-known locale. Not only for prized tanzanite and tsavorite used in jewelry, but also for hosting a suite of other minerals increasingly prized by mineral collectors.

"The Merelani district has been famous since the late 1960s for the blue gem variety of zoisite known as tanzanite, but this is really a mineral collector's paradise and an exciting place to look for new minerals," says John Jaszczak, a physics professor at Michigan Tech and the lead author on a new study published in Minerals that describes the new mineral. "The importance of the area is the reason we wanted to give tribute to the miners and name merelaniite for the district."

There are 5,179 minerals listed by the International Mineralogical Association and their Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) receive more than 80 proposals each year for new ones. Many turn out to be variations of existing minerals. To discern the new from the variable, Jaszzak and his team put the tiny merelaniite whiskers through a battery of rigorous tests, particularly to discern its chemistry and crystal structure.

"It is one thing to find a mineral that is probably new, it is quite another thing to be able to perform all of the required analyses to satisfy the CNMNC for approval of its status and a new name," Jaszczak says.

Jaszczak teamed up with Mike Rumsey and John Spratt at the Natural History Museum in London to determine the chemical composition of the new mineral with precision. To help with understanding the crystal structure, Steve Hackney, professor of materials science at Michigan Tech, was able to provide crucial high-resolution images and diffraction patterns using transmission electron microscopy on ultrathin samples prepared with a diamond knife by Owen Mills, director of Michigan Tech's Applied Chemical & Morphological Analysis Laboratory.

The growing team then sought out the help of Luca Bindi, a professor at the Universita? di Firenze in Italy and an expert in solving complicated crystals structures. He helped run x-ray diffraction studies to put all of the pieces together. The results revealed a complex structure made up of layers of molybdenum disulfide alternating at the atomic scale with layers of lead sulfide, along with other elements, including vanadium, antimony, bismuth, and selenium. The layers curve inward, growing into a scroll-like cylinder.

Although it is not a showcase gem, merelaniite is attractive, and as the analyses show, it has an intricate, microscopic internal beauty as well. A better understanding of the crystal chemistry of these exotic materials may eventually find useful applications.

Echoing physicist Richard Feynman, Jaszczak notes, "Science is about taking pleasure in finding things out and we're delighted to have uncovered and described this beautiful new mineral."
-end-


Michigan Technological University

Related Diffraction Patterns Articles from Brightsurf:

Lung injuries from vaping have characteristic patterns on CT
Injuries to the lungs from vaping have suggestive patterns on CT scans that could help physicians make accurate diagnoses and reduce unnecessary biopsies, according to a new study.

Fast and flexible computation of optical diffraction
The efficient calculation of diffraction is of significance for tracing electromagnetic field propagation and predicting the performance of optical systems.

New technique for engineering living materials and patterns
A new method for engineering living materials called 'MeniFluidics', made by researchers at the University of Warwick could see a transformation in tissue engineering and bio-art, as well as new ways to research cellular interactions.

Separations between earthquakes reveal clear patterns
So far, few studies have explored how the similarity between inter-earthquake times and distances is related to their separation from initial events.

Psychiatry: Five clearly defined patterns
Psychiatrists led by Nikolaos Koutsouleris from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have used a computer-based approach to assign psychotic patients diagnosed as bipolar or schizophrenic to five different subgroups.

Biophysics: Orientation of protein patterns
During embryogenesis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the first cell division occurs transverse to the long axis of the fertilized egg.

Patterns in the brain shed new light on how we function
Patterns of brain connectivity take us a step closer to understanding the key principles of cognition.

Imprinted color patterns
Structural colors appear because the imprinted pattern on a surface changes the wavelengths of light.

Color superlensing to assist in surpassing diffraction barrier
The research was supported by a Russian Science Foundation's grant under the title 'Synthesis and research of a new class of nanocomposite ceramics with degenerate dielectric permeability for opto-plasmonic applications.'

Screen time patterns of kids
Screen time data for nearly 3,900 children were used to examine patterns of screen time use and the association with sociodemographic characteristics such as parental education levels and sex of the child.

Read More: Diffraction Patterns News and Diffraction Patterns Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.