Are quasicrystals really so rare in the Universe?

1,2Luca Bindi,3Vladimir E. Dmitrienko,4Paul J. Steinhardt
American Mineralogist 105, 1121-1125 Link to Article []
1Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Via La Pira 4, I-50121 Firenze, Italy
2CNR-Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse, Sezione di Firenze, Via La Pira 4, I-50121 Firenze, Italy
3A.V. Shubnikov Institute of Crystallography, FSRC “Crystallography and Photonics” RAS, 119333 Moscow, Russia
4Department of Physics, Princeton University, Jadwin Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, U.S.A
Copyright: The Mineralogical Society of America

Until 2009, the only known quasicrystals were synthetic, formed in the laboratory under highly controlled conditions. Conceivably, the only quasicrystals in the Milky Way, perhaps even in the Universe, were the ones fabricated by humans, or so it seemed. Then came the report that a quasicrystal with icosahedral symmetry had been discovered inside a rock recovered from a remote stream in far eastern Russia, and later that the rock proved to be an extraterrestrial, a piece of a rare CV3 carbonaceous chondrite meteorite (known as Khatyrka) that formed 4.5 billion years ago in the pre-solar nebula. At present, the only known examples of natural quasicrystals are from the Khatyrka meteorite. Does that mean that quasicrystals must be extremely rare in the Universe? In this speculative essay, we present several reasons why the answer might be no. In fact, quasicrystals may prove to be among the most ubiquitous minerals found in the Universe.


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