“Kahlenbergite” consists of potassium, aluminum and oxygen and is similar to certain synthetically produced materials that are used technically.
The new mineral is scientifically investigated and described by Biljana Krüger and Hannes Krüger from the Institute for Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Innsbruck. They received sample material for further analysis from Polish and Israeli researchers who found the mineral in the so-called Hatrurim formation in the Negev desert.
Rare natural beta aluminate
The two Innsbruck crystallographers examined the tiny crystals made available to them with the help of the “Swiss Light Source”, a synchrotron radiation source at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland.
“This gave us the opportunity to precisely determine the complex crystal structure of these very small crystals,” Hannes Krüger published in a broadcast. Kahlenbergite (KAl11O17) belongs to the so-called beta-aluminates, and was only the second naturally formed representative from this group when it was discovered.
Named after Volker Kahlenberg
Biljana and Hannes Krüger suggested naming the new mineral after the mineralogist and crystallographer Volker Kahlenberg. The scientist, who has been a professor at the University of Innsbruck since 2003, is dedicated to synthetically produced materials that are technically used with relatives like the natural Kahlenbergite and, thanks to their special crystal structure and chemistry, for example as ion conductors in batteries, for example.
“We found it extremely fitting that this mineral in particular – as a natural counterpart to similar compounds already known synthetically – was given its name,” says Biljana Krüger.
100 new minerals annually
The prerequisite for recognition as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Society IS that they have been created in a purely natural way. Up to 30 experts assess whether it is actually a new mineral. More than 5,720 different minerals are currently known, with up to 100 new minerals being added every year.
The scientists do not yet fully understand which processes lead to the formation of such special minerals as “Kahlenbergite”. It is clear that in the geological past, high temperatures of 1,200 degrees and low pressure converted calcareous rocks. “The conditions were also similar to those for burning cement in a blast furnace,” says Biljana Krüger.
The minerals from the desert could help to better understand the processes of cement production, while synthetic crystals produced in the laboratory under precisely defined conditions could broaden our understanding of the geological past of the desert.