Just when you thought that every single corner of the entire world had been explored, an Aussie researcher has discovered an entirely new mineral. From the extensive study done so far, it appears to be unique, having no relations whatsoever with any of the known family of minerals.
The first person to see the mineral was actually a junior miner. He was hard at work on an outcrop near Lake Cowan in Western Australia when he saw a substance which, he was pretty sure, he had never seen before. So he grabbed a piece and handed it Dr Peter Elliott, who’s a research fellow at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide.
After conducting exhaustive tests, Dr Elliott decided that it was, indeed, an undiscovered mineral, and has given it the name putnisite. This is a nod of respect to Australian mineralogists Andrew and Christine Putnis. But it isn’t official quite yet: all names must be approved by the International Mineralogical Association before they’re considered formal.
To look at, putnisite is translucent. Hold it up to a light source and you’ll see the rays shining through it, as you can with minerals like quartz and calcite. To touch, it’s brittle. So it feels hard, but it doesn’t take much to break it. Dr Peter Elliott has worked out that putnisite is made of carbon, calcium, chromium and strontium, and he’s worked out a formula to represent it: SrCa4Cr3+8(CO3)8SO4(OH)16·23H2O.
“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,” Elliott said in an interview. His discovery was first published in Mineralogical Magazine.