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Earth's most abundant mineral seen and named for first time

"We finally tracked down natural silicate-perovskite," said Chi Ma.
By Brooks Hays   |   June 18, 2014 at 10:57 AM   |   Comments

QUEENSLAND, Australia, June 18 (UPI) -- It's hard to be ubiquitous and well-concealed, but that's what silicate-perovskite has been for some time -- until now.

Having recently been seen by scientists for the first time, silicate-perovskite -- the world's most abundant mineral, previously named for its chemical components and crystal structure -- has been rechristened as bridgmanite.

The magnesium-silicate mineral is abundant, but has remained concealed because it's buried deep below Earth's surface, in its mantle. Scientists, however, finally got a glimpse of the mineral -- sandwiched between other rock layers in the middle of a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite that crashed into Australia in 1879.

"It is a very exciting discovery," said Chi Ma of Caltech, who along with Oliver Tschauner, of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, identified and named the mineral.

"We finally tracked down natural silicate-perovskite (now bridgmanite) in a meteorite after a five-year investigation, and got to name the most abundant mineral on Earth. How cool is that?"

Ma and Tschauner were first clued into the mineral's presence when they used x-ray diffraction mapping to gain a general understanding of the meteorite's makeup. They were able to zoom in on the silicate-perovskite with a high-resolution scanning electron microscope.

The mineral's new name is an homage to physicist Percy Bridgman, a physicist awarded the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the field of high-pressure physics. The silicate mineral with a perovskite structure is impressive for its ability to remain stable under the high pressure and hot temperature of deep Earth.

"Our finding of natural bridgmanite not only provides new information on shock conditions and impact processes on small bodies in the solar system," explained Ma, "but the tiny bridgmanite found in a meteorite could also help investigations of phase transformation mechanisms in the deep Earth."

The mineral's identification and renaming was approved earlier this month by the International Mineralogical Association's Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification.

Topics: Nobel Prize
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