Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Initial stages by which giant gypsum crystals form

Date:
April 5, 2012
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral which is often used in industrial processes and which in nature, if left alone for thousands of years, can grow into huge translucent, towering and eerie, crystals more than 10 meters tall. These are famed for their beauty in places such as the Cave of Crystals in Mexico. Nevertheless, the formation of gypsum has until now been largely unexplored.

Giant gypsum crystals up to 11 meters long in the Cave of Crystals, Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Credit: Javier Trueba

Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral which is often used in industrial processes and which in nature, if left alone for thousands of years, can grow into huge translucent, towering and eerie, crystals more than 10 metres tall. These are famed for their beauty in places such as the Cave of Crystals in Mexico. Nevertheless, the formation of gypsum has until now been largely unexplored.

A study by researchers from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds and the Laboratorio de Estudios Cristalográficos CSIC-University of Granada found that gypsum starts off as tiny crystals of a mineral called bassanite. Most of us know this as Plaster of Paris as we use it in building, art-work, casts and fireproofing. Currently bassanite plaster is manufactured at a rate of 100 million tons per year by dehydrating quarried gypsum at 150 deg C. Builders, artists and medical specialists buy the bassanite powder and add water to create a malleable material that hardens once dried again.

By experimenting with supersaturated gypsum solutions, the researchers were able to produce bassanite at room temperature. This than transforms to gypsum.

Professor Liane G Benning from the University of Leeds said: "This process has never been documented before. In nature gypsum grows as these fantastic large crystals, yet we show that in the lab gypsum actually grows through the assembly of many, tiny bassanite crystals. These link together like a string of pearls before they crystallize to gypsum. We studied hundreds of high-resolution images and caught the tiny bassanite crystals in the act of assembling into gypsum"

Their findings are published April 6 in the journal Science.

The lead author, Alexander van Driessche from the Laboratorio de Estudios Cristalográficos in Grenada said: "Our study shows a new, low cost and low temperature way of making bassanite, although so far we have only managed to keep it stable for up to one hour. "

This finding may also be applicable for reducing the clogging of pipes and filters through the precipitation of gypsum during water desalination or oil production. It can cost millions of pounds to remove gypsum from a pipe -- a serious economic problem specifically for countries supplying much needed drinking water.

Prof. Juan Manuel Garcia Ruiz, the director of the Laboratorio de Estudios Cristalográficos in Granada said: "The study reveals how a natural mineral forming process can have important economic consequences for our daily lives. It also tells us how nature can make such beautiful and enormous crystals as seen in the caves at Naica or even the gypsum and bassanite, recently documented on Mars."

Finally, Prof. Benning said" If we manage to produce and stabilize bassanite crystals at room temperature through a clean, green method for long periods, we don't just learn something about a natural process but, compared to what is industry standard currently, our research could also lead to a massive cost and energy saving for the production of plaster."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. E. S. Van Driessche, L. G. Benning, J. D. Rodriguez-Blanco, M. Ossorio, P. Bots, J. M. Garcia-Ruiz. The Role and Implications of Bassanite as a Stable Precursor Phase to Gypsum Precipitation. Science, 2012; 336 (6077): 69 DOI: 10.1126/science.1215648

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Initial stages by which giant gypsum crystals form." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405142152.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2012, April 5). Initial stages by which giant gypsum crystals form. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405142152.htm
University of Leeds. "Initial stages by which giant gypsum crystals form." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405142152.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) — TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) — Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) — When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) — 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins