Researcher Dr Agnieszka Dybowska describes a recent visit to Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, during which the CoG3 team completed their first detailed spectroscopic analysis of laterite samples.
On Thursday 28 April we headed to Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, hoping to carry out atomic scale analysis of a sample from the Shevchenko laterite deposit in Kazakhstan – one of the samples we’re investigating as a potential new source of cobalt.
For some of us this was the first visit to a synchrotron facility, and definitely a great experience!
Some meteorites, called CI chondrites, contain quite a lot of water; more than 15% of their total weight. Scientists have suggested that impacts by meteorites like these could have delivered water to the early Earth. The water in CI chondrites is locked up in minerals produced by aqueous alteration processes on the meteorite’s parent asteroid, billions of years ago. It has been very hard to study these minerals due to their small size, but new work carried out by the Meteorite Group at the Natural History Museum has been able to quantify the abundance of these minerals.
The minerals produced by aqueous alteration (including phyllosilicates, carbonates, sulphides and oxides) are typically less than one micron in size (the width of a human hair is around 100 microns!). They are very important, despite their small size, because they are major carriers of water in meteorites. We need to know how much of a meteorite is made of these minerals in order to fully understand fundamental things such as the physical and chemical conditions of aqueous alteration, and what the original starting mineralogy of asteroids was like.