News & Comment
Jadarite – the fictional kryptonite?
Chris J Stanley, (Natural History Museum) writes In
March 2006, I was asked by a colleague at Rio Tinto
plc, a global mining company, to help with the
identification of a new mineral found in Serbia. This
compound was unlike any of the other thirty-odd
new minerals I had previously helped to describe.
Nowadays, new mineralsgenerally come in the form
of a few grains only visible under a microscope, but
this one was white and massive; consisting of several
centimetres of drill core (the cylindrical core extracted
from diamond drilling used in mineral exploration)
and a few bags of fragments. So, I put together a
multinational team of experts to determine the
chemistry, structure and physical properties of thesamples. These characteristics are required for
submission to the Commission on New Minerals,
Nomenclature and Classification of the International
Mineralogical Association, the governing body for the
naming of new minerals.
Nothing is as simple as it seems, and the first
problem was with the grain size. Each individual
crystal was less than five microns across (0.005 mm)
and impossible toextract. A conventional
determination of the crystal structure by X-ray
analysis of a single crystal was not possible.
Fortunately, the Canadian side of the team had
expertise in determining crystal structures using
complex computer calculations on X-ray data derived
from a powdered sample. The next problem was the
chemistry of the mineral. The suspected presence of
lithium meant that we hadto use wet chemical
techniques (such as Inductively Coupled Plasma
Atomic Emission Spectrometry or ICPAES) rather
than the electron microprobe, which can’t analyse
the lightest elements of the periodic table. The
chemical formula was determined to be
LiNaSiB3O7(OH) and, after about six months, we had
assembled all the data and submitted the new mineral
proposal (Fig. 1). Two months later wehad an almost
unanimous vote in favour of both the description and
the name jadarite, which is for the locality in Serbia
where it was found.
It was while I was trying to find out more
information about the relationship (if any) of our new
mineral to synthetic glasses used to store high-level
radioactive waste that I stumbled across the next
remarkable aspect of the new mineral. Typing126
‘sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide’ into a
Google advanced search (exact phrase) gave me the
following from a Wikipedia entry:
‘In Superman Returns, an additional piece of
kryptonite is found in a rock fragment, once
more in Addis Ababa. Lex Luthor steals it
from a Metropolis museum and uses it in his
quest to create a new kryptonite landmass.
During the extraction process,the rock
appears to hold a significant amount of green
kryptonite. The scientific name for the rock
was displayed on its case, ‘Sodium lithium
boron silicate hydroxide with fluorine’. As
borosilicate glass is commonly crystalline and
green-tinted, this could be a plausible human
mis-identification of kryptonite; alternately, as
no ‘unknown’ component is listed, one might
fluorine) blend to be the actual composition of
green kryptonite. Though more likely, the
researchers who performed the analysis of the
fragment did not perform a core sample test.
Fig. 1. The structure of new
mineral jadarite—or kryptonite?
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Geology Today, Vol. 23, No. 4, July–August 2007
They may have only chipped off theouter
layer in order to test it.’
Rather than a misidentification for kryptonite, maybe
the rock is supposed to be the stable host to the
fictional highly radioactive green kryptonite? If so,
this demonstrates a high level of chemical knowledge
(or research) of the Superman Returns scriptwriters.
Whatever the fiction, the jadarite structure is now
published in Acta Crystallographica with...
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