Quasicrystals are a rare type of mineral found only in nature that scientists have been trying to understand for decades. They have properties that are difficult to replicate in the lab, but researchers think that they may be produced by a violent collision between asteroids.
They are made up of atoms that are arranged in an ordered fashion, but without the periodic repetition of a simple geometric form that is typical of crystals. Instead, they have a pattern that never repeats and can only be formed at very high temperatures and pressures.
Their unusual atomic arrangement was first discovered in 1982 by materials scientist Dan Shechtman, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2011 for this discovery. Over the years, researchers figured out how to produce hundreds of synthetic quasicrystals in the lab using very specific temperature and pressure conditions.
Then in 2009, the first natural example of a quasicrystal was identified within a meteorite from Khatyrka, Russia. The same meteorite has recently yielded another natural example with decagonal symmetry, which is very rare in quasicrystals.
These unusual materials have unique optical and physical properties that make them useful in many applications. They are non-stick, hard, and can be used for thermoelectric material that converts heat into electricity, insulating layers, solar-selective energy absorption, anti-friction coatings like Teflon and more.
They also have some unusual properties, such as a non-reactive surface that cannot become rusty. This means they are a great material for military purposes, camouflage and more.