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What is a Quasicrystal?

Context:

According to a recent study, Scientists have discovered a new type of one with 12-fold symmetry, in the Sand Hills of north central Nebraska, USA.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Quasicrystal?
  2. What are the findings of the new study?

What is a Quasicrystal?

  • Quasicrystal is a substance that is crystal-like, but with atoms arranged in a pattern that does not repeat itself regularly.
  • Prior to the discovery of quasicrystals, it was believed that every crystalline arrangement of atoms must have a pattern that repeats itself.
Discovery and Application:
  • In 1982, material scientist Dan Shechtman discovered quasicrystals while studying diffraction patterns produced by X-rays passing through the crystals. He noted a regular diffraction pattern that did not match any periodically repeated structure.
  • Since then, quasicrystals have been created in labs and found to possess unique electrical, photonic, and mechanical properties that are not found in other materials.
  • They are used in manufacturing non-stick frying pans, needles for acupuncture and surgery, dental instruments, and razor blades.

What are the findings of the new study?

  • The new study found a quasicrystal in a wind-created dune in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, which is only the third time that scientists have discovered a quasicrystal in nature.
  • The quasicrystal was created by an electrical discharge from a lightning strike or downed power line, which produced extreme temperatures (more than 1,710 degree Celsius) that led to the formation of a tube of fused and melted sand called a fulgurite.
  • The new quasicrystal was found inside a tubular piece of fulgurite, and it has a dodecagonal or 12-sided atomic structure, which is quite unusual compared to previously found quasicrystals and lab-grown ones, which have five-fold symmetric patterns.
  • The study suggests that the discovery of a quasicrystal in a wind-created dune opens up possibilities for finding quasicrystals in other locations and for synthesizing them in the laboratory.

-Source: Indian Express


March 2023
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