Skip navigation links
home page > communication > News > Earth sciences: asteroid collision reproduced in a laboratory
Print this page


Earth sciences: asteroid collision reproduced in a laboratory

Shock syntesis of quasicrystals with implications for their origin in asteroid collision
An international team of researchers has reproduced in a laboratory the conditions of a collision of asteroids in space, opening new scenarios for planetary sciences and physics of solid matter. The experiment, to which Luca Bindi of the Department of Earth Sciences participated, could supply new elements on how planets were formed at the dawn of the solar system as well as on design and synthesis of materials. The research was carried out together with Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology and has been published on the scientific journal Pnas (“Shock synthesis of quasicrystals with implications for their origin in asteroid collisions”, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1600321113).

The experiments spins off from the study of samples of the meteorite Khatyrka found in far east Russia and containing quasicrystals, a particular kind of material in which atoms are set in a non-periodical manner and whose first known natural sample is part of the collections of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florence.

“The meteorite containing the crystal – explains Luca Bindi – shows the typical features of an impact among extraterrestrial bodies formation ambient, where high temperatures and pressures are reached. Starting from this observation we have pursued our studies seeking a technique offering a proof of this hypothesis. After six months of lab preparation - continues Bindi - we were able to continue with the experiment. We exploded a bullet at 900m/s against materials reproducing the composition observed in the meteorite containing the natural quasicrystals, thus recreating analogous conditions to those occurred during the formation of the Khatyrka meteorite at the dawn of the solar system.”

The innovative aspect of the research lies not only in the nature of the experiment but also in the fact that from the laboratory-created shock a new quasicrystal was formed, with a never reported before composition, which took 18 months of study to be described.

“The experiment displayed the opportunity to produce in extreme conditions materials with unknown chemical compositions. The creation of such minerals could offer important information on important geochemical mechanisms occurred during the initial stages of the solar system. At the same time the discovery opens the way to new production processes in the sectors interested by the use of quasicrystals.”

17 June 2016