Uakitite: This New Space Mineral Is Almost As Hard as a Diamond

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This rock speckled with shiny yellow dots has disappointed some gold hunters from Russia when they heard it was not gold. However, the rock was from space, and it has a mineral that has never been discovered on Earth.

This rock came from a meteorite called Uakit (the Russian name of the place where it was found). At the Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society which took place in Moscow, scientists presented this new mineral which they named uakitite.

Analysis of the meteorite resulted in an exciting find: 98% of it was made from kamacite (iron and 5-10% nickel) which is found exclusively in meteorites and form in space. The rest of 1 to 2% of the rock is made from a dozen minerals that most of them form in space. Looking at the meteorite’s composition, scientists evaluated that the rock formed in very hot temperatures (over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,000 degrees Celsius).

How Hard Are These Tiny Grains of Uakitite?

Using very powerful microscopes, the team of scientists have found tiny grains of uakitite that were 25 times smaller than a grain of sand. The mineral was so small that the team couldn’t conclude on what are its physical properties.

The only thing they could determine was that it has a similar structure to other minerals from space (carlsbergite and osbornite), which are mononitrides (contain one nitrogen atom). The mononitrides are very hard, usually perfect as abrasive material, explained the lead researcher of the study, Victor Sharygin, who is a geologist at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy (Novosibirsk, Russia).

Sharygin explains that “the hardness of uakitite was not measured directly,” because it was too small, but they used a vanadium nitride that they have synthetically produced, which resemble uakitite.

The estimations are that the hardness of uakitite is somewhere between 9 and 10 (the Mohs scale). A diamond’s hardness is at 10, but Sharygin explains that the range between 9 and 10 is very wide and that the hardness of uakitite is lower than the one of a diamond.

What could be about as hard as a diamond is the synthetic boron nitride which has to be produced at very hot temperatures, concluded Sharygin.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.