A crystal the size of a school bus?
A crystal the size of a school bus? Dr. Michael A. Wise is a geologist, and an expert on pegmatites, at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution)
A crystal the size of a school bus?
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In South Dakota, miners found a crystal of a mineral called spodumene that was 42 feet long and weighed 90 tons. While it's an extreme example, the massive crystal showcased one of the incredible qualities of the rock in which it was found. It is known as "pegmatite." Unlike most rocks, pegmatites contain unusually large crystals of a wide variety of minerals.

Why?

Pegmatites are igneous rocks. They form as melted materials (magma) cool beneath the Earth's crust. Superheated water in the magma helps some chemical elements accumulate. That allows the magma to crystallize many kinds of minerals. Some are not found in most common rock types. Miners look to pegmatites for the beryl crystals that are cut into the gem aquamarine, the spodumene for kunzite and the spectacular and colorful tourmaline.

But pegmatites produce more than just beautiful gemstones.

Many minerals valued for industrial and commercial purposes are also found in pegmatites. Consider that your cellphone wouldn't work properly without the rare element tantalum. It is mined from pegmatites. That is the only rock where it occurs in high concentrations. Spodumene is the source of high-purity lithium. That is required for making rechargeable batteries used in electronics. The muscovite found in mica-rich pegmatites is used in many products, including cosmetics.

Find out more about why Smithsonian Geologist Dr. Michael Wise calls pegmatites "Nature's Giant Treasure Chests."

Join us on Thursday, April 16, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast. It's titled Mineral Dependence - Gemstones to Cellphones. It will air at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website. Mike Wise will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

Critical thinking challenge: How are we dependent upon minerals?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/crystal-size-school-bus/

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COMMENTS (82)
  • meredithkirbo
    4/06/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    we need them for Agriculture,food,packaging,construction energy...etc those are just some of the minerals we use in our everyday loves. we depend on minerals to live really without minerals we cant do many things.

  • matthewspires650@yahoo.com
    4/06/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    In South Dakota, miners found a crystal of a mineral called spodumene that was 42 feet long and weighed 90 tons. While it's an extreme example, the massive crystal showcased one of the incredible qualities of the rock in which it was found. It is known as "pegmatite." Unlike most rocks, pegmatites contain unusually large crystals of a wide variety of minerals.

  • evanb-Orv
    4/06/2015 - 01:15 p.m.

    We are dependent on minerals because almost anything technological is made with some kind of mineral or related substance and how is a mineral crystal the size of a school bus!

  • CameronS-2
    4/06/2015 - 01:32 p.m.

    This article is about how minors found on mineral bigger than a school bus on South Dakota. Mineral weighed more than 90 times S. Any minerals or via Valby valued in this kind of rock. Article was interesting because I did not know that they can find such a big mineral in the United States.

  • EmmaBender
    4/06/2015 - 01:43 p.m.

    I think that it is crazy how big crystals can get. It's so cool how big they are and how long or how much weight they can get up to.

  • JacobW-Rei
    4/06/2015 - 04:56 p.m.

    Haveing a crystal the size of a school bus could be extreme. But it depends on how big the schoolbus would be. For instance it could snap wasting about $100-10,000

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/06/2015 - 09:25 p.m.

    I think that this is cool because miners had found a gemstone that is call "pegmatite" which is as large as a school bus, but no mineral is as bigger than pegmatites which is as large as a school bus so other minerals are much smaller than pegmatite. If minerals that are smaller than pegmatite, I think that there are other minerals that has very small amount in a rock like gold which is still rare in California but gold is still rare as today but some gemstones could be used to make cellphones which sound kind of cool.
    Critical thinking challenge: How are we dependent upon minerals?
    Answer: We are dependent on minerals because there is one mineral that makes pencil leads also lead pencils which is called lead which is why minerals are kind of important to us.

  • SofiaA-4
    4/06/2015 - 10:38 p.m.

    There was a crystal found in South Dakota of a material called spodumene that is 42 feet long and weighs 90 tons. The crystal was found in a type of rock called pegmatite. Pegmatites are known for being used in common products, such as cellphones and cosmetics. Spodumene itself is used in batteries. Pegmatites are igneous rocks, or formed as magma, which helps the elements of the rock accumulate and crystallize many materials. Miners look for beryl crystals and other gems in this rock.

    I think that it is very interesting that even rocks are used in everyday life. I would be very fascinated if I saw this giant rock in person.

  • Xavier2015
    4/07/2015 - 09:03 a.m.

    I think its really cool that they found this. Its as long as a school bus! maybe they should put it in a museum for biggest crystal in the world.

  • hailie1237
    4/07/2015 - 11:29 a.m.

    I used to live in South Dakota so I think it's really intresting that they found a crystal as large as this one there. In science we are learning about Igneous rocks and how they are formed. This is just another exciting example about what we are learning. This crystal is a pegmatities which means its made up of a variety of different minerals. The article says that the crystal weighs up to 90 tons, and is 42 feet long.

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