December 1, 2015—An orange-brown mineral named ophirite, described by a team lead by Dr. Anthony R. Kampf, Curator Emeritus of Mineralogy at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), has beendesignated the “Mineral of the Year” by the International Mineral Association. The award was announced in the December 2015 issue of the international mineral science magazine Elements and on the website of The International Mineralogical Association: http://www.ima-mineralogy.org/.
More than 100 new mineral species are discovered every year. Every one of them adds something to our understanding of the natural world and the conditions under which minerals can form and exist. In some cases, they can help us to understand processes going on in the Earth that we cannot otherwise observe. Occasionally, they have internal structures or chemical compositions that have never been seen before; such discoveries can lead to the development of new materials with important uses. To celebrate these kinds of new mineral discoveries, the International Mineral Association developed an annual award –Mineral of the Year – in order to recognize the most interesting mineral published in the previous year. This year marks the first time this award has been presented.
The award-winning mineral is named “ophirite” after the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine in Utah, where it was found. Its discovery is particularly exciting because the internal structure of ophirite contains a complex cluster of atoms that has never before been found in nature. That cluster, referred to as a trilacunary Keggin anion, had been synthesized in laboratories for many years and has found a wide range of applications in technology and medicine.
Kampf’s co-authors include John M. Hughes (University of Vermont), Barbara P. Nash (University of Utah), Stephen E. Wright (Miami University, Ohio), George R. Rossman (Caltech), and Joe Marty (Salt Lake City, Utah). It was Marty who discovered the specimen containing ophirite roughly 25 years ago.
Kampf, who has been involved in the descriptions of more than 150 new minerals, said he enjoys the challengeof putting together everything that is needed to define a new mineral. “I do it because I relish the sense ofdiscovery that I get, especially when the crystal structure turns out to be unique or reveals an unusual newfeature,” said Kampf. Interestingly, Kampf was also involved in the descriptions of two out of the three minerals that were runners-up for the Mineral of the Year award.
Link to Elements: http://www.elementsmagazine.org/archives/e11_6/e11_6_soc_IMA.pdf
About the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a national leader in research, exhibitions and education. The Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its doors in 1913. It has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. For more information, visit the Museum’s website at www.nhm.org or call (213) 763-DINO.
Kristin Friedric: firstname.lastname@example.org; 213.763.3532