University of Adelaide mineralogy researcher discovers new mineral

Putnisite Image credit: flickr User: Worldofchemicals Media

Dr Peter Elliott, a mineralogy researcher from the University of Adelaide, has discovered a new mineral, now named “putnisite”, that is unique in structure and composition among the 4, 000 known mineral species in the world.

Putnisite Image credit: flickr User: Worldofchemicals Media
Image credit: flickr User: Worldofchemicals Media

According to the press release by the University of Adelaide, the translucent and brittle mineral that has no known practical uses was discovered during prospecting by a mining company in Western Australia and handed on to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) for initial research and then to Dr Elliott for more detailed analysis. Some of the elements found in the mineral are carbon, calcium, chromium and strontium.

“What defines a mineral is its chemistry and crystallography. By x-raying a single crystal of mineral you are able to determine its crystal structure and this, in conjunction with chemical analysis, tells you everything you need to know about the mineral,” said Dr Elliott, who is also a Research Associate with the South Australian Museum.

“Most minerals belong to a family or small group of related minerals, or if they aren’t related to other minerals they often are to a synthetic compound- but putnisite is completely unique and unrelated to anything. Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in a laboratory.”

Putnisite occurs as tiny crystals, no more than 0.5 mm in diameter and is found on a volcanic rock appearing as “dark pink spots on dark green and white rock which, under the microscope, appears as square, cube-like crystals.”

The mineral was named after Australian mineralogists Andrew and Christine Putnis, but the name has yet to be officialized and approved by the International Mineralogical Association.

Dr Elliott’s findings were published in Mineralogical Magazine.