London: Quasicrystals, which were once thought to be ‘impossible’ in nature, may have arrived on earth from space, a new study has revealed.
Quasicrystals have an atypical structure - in between those of crystals and glasses.
Until two years ago, the crystals had only been created in the lab - then geologists discovered them in rocks from Russia’s Koryak mountains
Quasicrystals break some of the rules of symmetry that apply to conventional crystalline structures. They also exhibit different physical and electrical properties, the BBC reported.
Dr Luca Bindi, from the University of Florence, Italy, Paul Steinhardt from Princeton University and others have asserted that tests point to an extra-terrestrial origin for the Russian minerals.
They used the technique of mass spectrometry to figure out different forms - or isotopes - of the element oxygen contained in parts of the rock sample.
The pattern of oxygen isotopes was distinct from any known minerals that originated on Earth. It was however closer to that sometimes found in a type of meteorite known as a carbonaceous chondrite.
The samples also contained a type of silica that only forms at very high pressures. This indicates that it either formed in the Earth``s mantle, or was formed in a high-velocity impact, such as that which occurs when a meteorite hits the Earth’s surface.
“Our evidence indicates that quasicrystals can form naturally under astrophysical conditions and remain stable over cosmic timescales,” the team said.
The study has been published in PNAS journal.