University of Adelaide mineralogy researcher discovers unique new mineral

By / 23rd of April, 2014

DR Peter Elliott, a mineralogy researcher from the University of Adelaide, has discovered the new mineral ‘putnisite’ after detailed analysis of a sample given to him by the CSIRO.

The mineral, which was mined in Western Australia, occurs as tiny crystals no more than 0.5mm in diameter, found on volcanic rock.

It is unique and unrelated to any other known mineral, making it a rare find. It combines elements strontium, calcium, chromium, suphur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

Dr Elliott, also a research associate with the South Australian Museum, has researched 12 new Australian minerals in the past seven years, seven of which he has discovered himself.

Two of those minerals were discovered in South Australia, domerockite, named after Dome Rock where the mineral was found, and hylbrownite, named after Henry York Lyle Brown, Government Geologist of South Australia from 1882-1912.

“What defines a mineral is its chemistry and crystallography. By x-raying a single crystal of mineral you are able to determine its crystal structure and this, in conjunction with chemical analysis, tells you everything you need to know about the mineral,” Dr Elliott said.

“Most minerals belong to a family or small group of related minerals, or if they aren't related to other minerals they often are to a synthetic compound - but putnisite is completely unique and unrelated to anything.

“Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in a laboratory.”

Putnisite was named after Australian mineralogists Andrew and Christine Putnis.

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Putnisite, which forms as a purple crystal on green and white speckled volcanic rock.

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Key contacts

Dr Peter Elliott Visiting Research Fellow, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Adelaide
61 8 8207 7448
Robyn Mills Media and Communications Officer University of Adelaide
61 8 8313 6341