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Natural Quasicrystals

Science  05 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5932, pp. 1306-1309
DOI: 10.1126/science.1170827

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Abstract

Quasicrystals are solids whose atomic arrangements have symmetries that are forbidden for periodic crystals, including configurations with fivefold symmetry. All examples identified to date have been synthesized in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Here we present evidence of a naturally occurring icosahedral quasicrystal that includes six distinct fivefold symmetry axes. The mineral, an alloy of aluminum, copper, and iron, occurs as micrometer-sized grains associated with crystalline khatyrkite and cupalite in samples reported to have come from the Koryak Mountains in Russia. The results suggest that quasicrystals can form and remain stable under geologic conditions, although there remain open questions as to how this mineral formed naturally.

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