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Beautiful Purple Mineral Discovered in Australia Is 'Unrelated to Anything'

Barbara Boland
By Barbara Boland | April 30, 2014 | 12:36 PM EDT

A mining company was doing some prospecting when they discovered a unique new mineral, "Putnisite," on an outcrop on Polar Bear peninsula, Southern Lake Cowan in Western Australia.

Putnisite (Photo Courtesy of Peter Elliott)

"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," said Peter Elliott in his description for Mineralogical Magazine.

University of Adelaide mineralogy researcher Peter Elliot and his team they did a detailed analysis of the new mineral, and found that what makes it different from the 4,000 minerals already known to man are its unique combination of strontium, calcium, chromium, sulfur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen elements.

Putnisite makes this distinct formula: SrCa4Cr83+(CO3)8SO4(OH)16•25H2O.

The mineral is created when volcanic rocks harden into tiny crystals (no greater than 0.5mm in diameter.) The crystal has a similar hardness to gypsum.

So far, scientists haven't found any practical uses for putnisite. Under a microscope, it appears to have cube-like crystals, colored with pink streaks and marbled in dark green and white rock.

Elliot and his team are responsible for the discovery and scientific labelling of 12 new Australian minerals in the past seven years. "Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in the laboratory," he said.

Putnisite is named after Christine and Andrew Putnis from the University of Münster in Germany, who are both respected and recognized for their significant contributions in the field of mineralogy.

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