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Evidence for the extraterrestrial origin of a natural quasicrystal

Bindi, Luca and Eiler, John M. and Guan, Yunbin and Hollister, Lincoln S. and MacPherson, Glenn and Steinhardt, Paul J. and Yao, Nan (2012) Evidence for the extraterrestrial origin of a natural quasicrystal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (5). pp. 1396-1401. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC3277151. doi:10.1073/pnas.1111115109.

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We present evidence that a rock sample found in the Koryak Mountains in Russia and containing icosahedrite, an icosahedral quasicrystalline phase with composition Al_(63)Cu_(24)Fe_(13), is part of a meteorite, likely formed in the early solar system about 4.5 Gya. The quasicrystal grains are intergrown with diopside, forsterite, stishovite, and additional metallic phases [khatyrkite (CuAl2), cupalite (CuAl), and β-phase (AlCuFe)]. This assemblage, in turn, is enclosed in a white rind consisting of diopside, hedenbergite, spinel (MgAl_2O_4), nepheline, and forsterite. Particularly notable is a grain of stishovite (from the interior), a tetragonal polymorph of silica that only occurs at ultrahigh pressures (≥10 Gpa), that contains an inclusion of quasicrystal. An extraterrestrial origin is inferred from secondary ion mass spectrometry ^(18)O/^(16)O and ^(17)O/^(16)O measurements of the pyroxene and olivine intergrown with the metal that show them to have isotopic compositions unlike any terrestrial minerals and instead overlap those of anhydrous phases in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. The spinel from the white rind has an isotopic composition suggesting that it was part of a calcium-aluminum-rich inclusion similar to those found in CV3 chondrites. The mechanism that produced this exotic assemblage is not yet understood. The assemblage (metallic copper-aluminum alloy) is extremely reduced, and the close association of aluminum (high temperature refractory lithophile) with copper (low temperature chalcophile) is unexpected. Nevertheless, our evidence indicates that quasicrystals can form naturally under astrophysical conditions and remain stable over cosmic timescales, giving unique insights on their existence in nature and stability.

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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Bindi, Luca0000-0003-1168-7306
Guan, Yunbin0000-0002-7636-3735
Additional Information:© 2012 National Academy of Sciences. Freely available online through the PNAS open access option. Edited by Paul M. Chaikin, New York University, New York, NY, and approved November 21, 2011 (received for review July 9, 2011). Published online before print January 3, 2012. We thank C. Ballhaus, J. Beckett, P. Bonazzi, K. Deffeyes, A. El Goresy, V. Distler, A. Ishiwatari, J. Jones, S. Menchetti, M. Morozov, G. Poirier, P. Robinson, V. Rudashevkij, E. Stolper, and P. Spry for useful discussions and assistance and to P.J. Lu for his contributions to the study of natural quasicrystals leading up to this paper. L.B. thanks Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Universita' e della Ricerca, Progetti di Ricerca di Interesse Nazionale 2007 project Complexity in minerals: Modulation, phase transition, structural disorder issued to Silvio Menchetti, Centro di Microscopia Elettronica e Microanalisi, Florence, Italy and Centro Interdipartimentale di Cristallografia Strutturale, Sesto Fiorentino, Florence, Italy. This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program through New York University Grant DMR-0820341 (to P.J.S.), Princeton Center for Complex Materials Grant DMR-0819860 (to N.Y.), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration Grant NNX11AD43G (to G.J.M.). Author contributions: L.B., J.M.E., Y.G., L.S.H., G.M., P.J.S., and N.Y. designed research; L.B., J.M.E., Y.G., G.M., P.J.S., and N.Y. performed research; L.B., G.M., P.J.S., and N.Y. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; L.B., J.M.E., Y.G., L.S.H., G.M., P.J.S., and N.Y. analyzed data; and L.B., J.M.E., Y.G., L.S.H., G.M., and P.J.S. wrote the paper.
Group:UNSPECIFIED, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC3277151
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120222-100124696
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Official Citation: Luca Bindi, John M. Eiler, Yunbin Guan, Lincoln S. Hollister, Glenn MacPherson, Paul J. Steinhardt, and Nan Yao From the Cover: Evidence for the extraterrestrial origin of a natural quasicrystal PNAS 2012 109 (5) 1396-1401; published ahead of print January 3, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1111115109
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:29411
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:22 Feb 2012 18:52
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 17:06

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