We just found a new mineral that’s even stronger than diamond (and it’s from space!)

news devices We just found a new mineral that’s even stronger than diamond (and it’s from space!)

55 years after its initial discovery in Arizona, Lonsdaleite, named after famous chemist Kathleen Lonsdale, is finally recognized as a mineral in its own right and its properties are breathtaking!

Understanding the strength and hardness of minerals using the Mohs scale

Before returning to this amazing discovery and understanding its true impact, it is important to talk about the Mohs scale and explain what it consists of.

The Mohs scale was designed in 1812 by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs (Hence the name…) in order to measure the hardness of metals. Historically, it was based on ten fairly common minerals, ranked from softest to hardest.

The principle of this scale is the opposition of minerals to each other and their ability to scratch each other. Thus, since this scale exists, Diamond is the reference in the problem with a score of 10 out of 10. That is, it can only be scratched by another diamond.

Below, at 9 out of 10, we find rubies and sapphires combined together in the “Corundum” family, which we know so well because this is what equips the hiking displays and high mountain watches in particular. Sapphire has the peculiarity of being available in large quantities, not too expensive and easy to work with. Then comes topaz (8/10), quartz (7/10) and so on…

We just found a new mineral that's even stronger than diamond (and it's from space!)

Then, as discoveries and uses progressed, the Mohs scale was attributed to a whole host of new stones and minerals, such as amethyst, opal, coral, or even pearls, which we understand why are so brittle and so precious with a score of 2.5/10.

To parallel with everyday things and better understand what corresponds, for example, to the popular tempered glass protections that we put on our smartphones, we brought you one last little table:

hardness Examples
2.5 salt, nail
2.5 to 3 gold, silver and copper
4 Bronze
5.5 normal tempered glass
6.5 Solid glass and steel

Lonsdaleite, what is it, where did it come from and why do diamonds get damaged?

As you can see, diamonds have been the hardness standard for centuries and many people swear by it. However, as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, for nearly half a century, we have had evidence of a new metal, more resistant, but also more malleable, that already exists.

This mineral is Lonsdaleite and for a very long time, it was confused with diamond, believing that it was nothing more and nothing less than a strange and unnatural form of the latter. However, in fact, after new studies, it has been observed that what is called in chemistry is an allotrope of elemental carbon, like diamond which is in the form of cubes while Lonsdaleite is in the form of hexagonal.

RMIT researchers

We just found a new mineral that's even stronger than diamond (and it's from space!)

It’s all for the technical part, and to get back to our sheep, if Lonsdaleite has surfaced recently, it’s because Australian researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) simply discovered what they thought were strangely curved diamonds in samples of…meteorites.

Except that, as shown above, diamonds are certainly very resistant, but also quite rigid. This mineral cannot, in fact, be diamond, but actually Lonsdaleite.

The story could have ended there, but this study tells us so The meteorite samples in which Lonsdaleite has been discovered will be of extraterrestrial origins and may have been forged during a catastrophe that occurred 4.5 billion years ago on an ancient dwarf planet when the Solar System was still forming!

Fragment of meteorite, diamond in pink and yellow Lonsdalite

We just found a new mineral that's even stronger than diamond (and it's from space!)

Big discovery when we know it So this “new” mineral will be 50% more resistant than diamond! What a review back on the Mohs scale.

The final word from Andy Tomkins, professor of Earth and planetary sciences and author of this study published on PNAS:

And so nature has provided us with a process to try to reproduce in industry. We believe lonsdaleite can be used to make extra-rigid machine parts if we can develop an industrial process that promotes the replacement of preformed graphite parts with lonsdaleite.

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