The citation also says quasicrystals are being used to develop heat insulation, LEDs, diesel engines, and new materials that convert heat to electricity. What new applications do you think are most promising?
Because some of these materials have a low coefficient of friction, and they have nonstick properties and are also hard, imagine what would happen if you produce quasicrystalline powder in tiny little balls by rapid solidification process, a gas-atomizing process, then you can embed the fine powders in plastic. Because these particles are strong and can withstand friction and wear, you can make gears from this plastic and the gears will not erode because of these embedded particles. It’s like a protection from erosion. This can serve in ventilators and fans that have plastic gears. Also, the heat conductivity of some of these quasicrystals is very poor. It’s almost an insulator. So you can coat with it and it will insulate against heat transfer.
Icosahedrite, a naturally occurring quasicrystalline mineral, has been identified in a sample from the Khatyrka River in Chukhotka, Russia. Will it be useful?
This is an important discovery, because it’s the first one found in nature, but there are no practical applications. There are many, many metals, but if you think that all the metals can be used for something useful, think again. Look at construction materials. We have steel, which is based on iron, we have aluminum alloys, magnesium alloys, titanium-based alloys, nickel-based alloys, copper alloys, and that’s about all, if I haven’t forgotten any. What do all the other metals do? What are the applications of ytterbium? What are the applications of all the other metals? So to have an application for a material is not trivial.