Volcanoes are one of the most devastating and amazing phenomena on the planet. But this burning crack was not just overwhelming. They also create.
In a new study, researchers in Russia report the discovery of one such creature – an unusual mineral that has never been documented by scientists: an attractive blue-green crystalline substance that the team calls it. petrovit.
The mineral is located in the volcanic landscape of the eastern tip of Russia, above the Tolbachik volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The history of the Tolbachik eruption goes back thousands of years, but more recently two significant events stand out: the “Great Tolbacik Gap Eruption” in 1975–1976 and the second, smaller follow-up that occurred between 2012-2013.
The force of the eruption at the time of the first incident was with the vast majority of cones in the volcanic complex, opening up the rocky terrain that has since been discovered as a rich layer of deposits of unknown fumaroles and minerals not seen elsewhere.
In total, Tolbachik Volcano claims 130 types of mineral sites that were first identified here, the most recent of which is petrovit, a spherical mineral with spherical crystalline blue sulfate, many of which have gaseous inclusions.
The specimens studied here were found in 2000, near the second coal cone associated with the 1975 eruption, and are being stored for further analysis. It may have been a long time ago, but analysis now reveals that this light blue mineral shows molecular properties rarely seen before.
“The copper atoms in the structure of the Petrovite crystal have an unusual and extremely rare coordination of seven oxygen atoms,” explains leading researcher and crystallographer Stanislav Filatov of St. Petersburg University.
“Such coordination is characteristic only for some compounds, as well as a kinase proposal.
Saranhinaite, identified a few years ago by another St. Petersburg team, was also found in Tolbachik – and, as a petrovit, was also found to be visibly self-painted.
In the case of petrovit, the mineral, which is thought to crystallize by direct precipitation of volcanic gas, takes the form of a blue cryptocrystalline crust that encloses a fine pyroclastic material.
At the chemical level, petrovite is a new type of crystal structure, although it bears a strong resemblance to the hypothesis that it can be produced, hypothetically.
In particular, the molecular skeleton of petrobit – consisting of atoms of oxygen, sodium sulfur, and copper – is effectively porous in nature, showing interconnected pathways that allow sodium ions to migrate through the structure.
Because of this behavior – and if we can replicate the framework in the laboratory – the team believes this could lead to important applications in materials science, potentially providing new ways to develop cathodes for use in batteries and electrical appliances.
“Currently, the biggest problem for these uses is the small amounts of transition metal – copper – in the crystal structure of the mineral,” Filatov said.
“This can be solved by synthesizing a compound with the same structure as petrovit in the laboratory.
These findings are reported in Magazine of Mineralogists.