Michigan Tech professor helps discover new mineral

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HOUGHTON — “Serendipidity is tied to dedication.”

Those are the words of John Jaszczak, a physics professor at Michigan Tech, whose work led to discovering a new mineral. It’s called merelaniite.

Merelaniite is a member of the cylindrite group and revealed a neatly stacked layered structure with sheets rolled in scrolls like tobacco in a cigar.

These tiny whiskers, which to the naked eye look like very fine hairs on other larger crystals, have probably been regularly cleaned off their host rocks containing other more recognizable minerals that occur at the famous gem mines near Merelani, Tanzania.

“Minerals have a natural wow factor, and while we use many of them daily without thinking twice, some specimens are truly art,” Jaszczak says, adding that minerals like the gems tanzanite (a blue/purple variety of zoisite) and tsavorite (a green variety of grossular garnet), which come from the same mines as merelaniite, can be more eye-catching. But it doesn’t negate the value of less showy minerals.

“Minerals also have an internal beauty in their crystal structures and in the way that influences their properties,” he explains. “Learning about minerals with unique crystal structures grants insight into the nature of matter, and sometimes leads to new human-made materials, their inspiration comes from natural sources.”

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