New Minerals Discovery
Many of us are rock collectors at heart, but imagine discovering something new! I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Kampf: I study minerals. I specifically study minerals that we haven’t found before.
Tony Kampf is curator emeritus of Minerals at the LA county Natural History Museum. We joined him as he examined a sample of what might be a new mineral.
Kampf: I have ways to study these to determine exactly what they are and whether they’re the same as other minerals that are already known or whether they’re brand new minerals.
Kampf: Minerals are the solid crystalline compounds that make up the world around us. We are constantly discovering new minerals.
One of the tools Tony Kampf uses to help identify minerals is a scanning electron microscope.
Kampf: You can get images at very high magnification using this, but one of the other good things that we can do with it is done with an attachment over here. The energy dispersive spectrometer will actually give us a quick chemical analysis of the material. This is the energy dispersive spectrum for this material.
The spectrometer’s computer screen graph displays a graph with several peaks in it. Each peak in the graph represents the presence of a different element in the sample mineral.
Kampf: And here you can see lead being labeled on that peak. There’s oxygen, and this shows carbon here.
The graph will give Tony clues as to the identity of the sample.
Kampf: It takes a lot more scientific study than just a quick test here and there to be sure that something is new, but I think we’ve started on the right track towards finding another new mineral.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation and Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.