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Natural Quasicrystals

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

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Forbidden Crystals

In crystalline materials, a unit cell is replicated in space through a series of rotations, inversions, and reflections. In order to fully fill space, only certain rotational symmetries are allowed. Quasicrystals contain aperiodic tilings of two or more basic shapes that allow these forbidden rotation symmetries. A number of quasicrystalline materials have been synthesized in the lab, including a number of aluminum alloys. Bindi et al. (p. 1306) examined samples of the mineral khatyrkite, with a nominal composition of (Cu,Zn)Al2. A number of quasicrystalline grains with composition similar to synthetically formed materials were observed. Thus, quasicrystals can form in nature under geological conditions.

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