Scientists studied 15 fragments of different meteorites and comets in search of superconductivity and were able to find this property in two of them.
Scientists at the University of California and the Brookhaven Laboratory in New York observed the physical property known as superconductivity in meteorites for the first time. According to an article published by the team on PNAS, they investigated 15 pieces of meteorites and comets in search of the property – and found it in two of those fragments, known as Mundrabilla and GRA 95205.
Superconductivity is an intrinsic property to certain materials that, when cooled, conduct electrical current without resistance or loss of power. However, although meteorites have varying compositions, superconductivity has never been observed in them before.
As team members explain, studying meteorites is particularly difficult because of its varied and complex composition. However, thanks to an ultrasensitive measurement technique called magnetic field modulated microwave spectroscopy, researchers were able to analyze the artifacts.
After finding superconductivity in the materials, the scientists subdivided them and measured individual samples, finding the grains that contained the largest fraction of this property. “These measurements and analyzes identified lead, indium and tin alloys,” said James Wampler, one of the researchers, in a statement to the press.
According to experts, Mundrabilla is a meteorite rich in iron sulfide of the type found in objects formed after the merger of asteroid nuclei and a period of slow cooling. GRA 95205 is a ureilite meteorite, a rare stone of unique mineral composition, which suffered strong shocks during its formation.
According to the scientists, their findings affect our understanding of several astronomical events, as the existence of superconducting particles in cold environments can affect everything from the formation of planets to the shape and origin of the magnetic fields of celestial bodies, for example. “Naturally occurring superconducting materials are uncommon, but are particularly significant because they can be superconducting in extraterrestrial environments,” said Wampler.