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Mine yields new mineral

The crystal structure of Theoparacelsite was analysed at Geneva University. www.unige.ch

Researchers in Geneva have announced the discovery of a new mineral.

This content was published on February 13, 2002 - 17:54

The object, which is composed of copper, arsenic and oxygen, was found in a disused mine near Nice in southern France.

The mineral has been named Theoparacelsite after the late medieval Swiss physician, Theophrastus Paracelsus. It is too early to say whether it will have any practical uses.

Dr Halil Sarp from the mineralogy department of Geneva's Natural History museum found the object last year.

At the laboratory of crystallography at Geneva University, Radovan Cerny studied its crystal structure.

Question of experience

"When you find a piece of rock it's a question of experience that you realize immediately that there's something new in it," said Cerny.

"You take it to a laboratory and you try to analyse it by physical and chemical methods. Then finally you want to determine the crystal structure of this new mineral - how the atoms are arranged inside it."

Cerny and Sarp's collaboration has helped to identify some 38 new minerals over the years.

"It's always a pleasure when you find something new," said Cerny. "It's like finding a new animal or a new star in the universe."

About 3,600 minerals have been identified worldwide and every year some 15 new ones are discovered.

by Vincent Landon

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