Surprises can always be around the corner, even when it comes to something we thought we knew very well. In this case, the discovery comes from a meteorite that crashed to Earth 50,000 years agoand which was discovered in 1891. All this time, he has hidden within himself a secret that has finally come to light: inside it has in fact been found a crystal never seen before in the world.
Canyon Diablo, an ancient meteorite
In the Pleistocene, a meteorite crashed into Earth in an area that is now Arizona, resulting in a large crater known as Meteorite crater – a real tourist destination for fans of the genre. According to some very ancient testimonies, the Native Americans would already have discovered this huge rocky mass that fell on our planet, but its official classification dates back only to 1891, and is due to the immense efforts of themining engineer Daniel Barringer. His family currently owns the land on which the crater is located and the fragments of meteorite found in it.
The Canyon Diablo – as the set of these fragments is called – it didn’t seem to be able to reveal any more surprises, but apparently we were wrong. Scientists have worked extensively studying the minerals inside it, and have made an important discovery. The diamonds they contain, in fact, are very different from those that could be expected to be found.
To understand what happened, it is important to take a step back: common diamonds, which we now know well, are generally formed at tens of kilometers deep in the bowels of the earth, where temperatures far exceed 1,000 degrees Celsius. These crystals are made up of cubic carbon atoms, each of which is joined to four other atoms. THE diamonds discovered in Canyon Diablo they are of a completely different kind.
A diamond never seen before: the discovery
In 1967, studying the contents of the meteorite, a diamond with a particular structure was discovered, which was given the name of lonsdaleite. It is a rare form of carbon, made up of atoms arranged in a hexagonal rather than a cubic lattice. A structure that closely resembles that of graphite. These diamonds are only formed when an asteroid impacts at enormous speeds on earth.
However, the scientists analyzed them again and identified them something quite unexpected. The results of their research, published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesshow that we are faced with a crystal never seen before on our planet. The lonsdaelite turned out to be nothing more than a common diamond with a cubic structure in which growths of graphene fit together, which has been given the name of diaphite. In addition, there are numerous anomalies in it at the atomic level, which gave it unusual properties.
The possible applications of the new crystal
Although there is still a lot to understand about diaphites, scientists have already learned that it is very precious and potentially revolutionary materials in the technological field. These crystals can be both very hard and very ductile, moreover they can be transformed into both conductors and insulators. According to experts, they could be used in nanomedicine, in the laser technologies and in electronics, for example by using them in the creation of ever smaller electronic devices with incredibly fast charging speeds.