24/7 Space News
TECH SPACE
Lightning strike creates phosphorus material for the first time on Earth
University of South Florida geoscientist Matthew Pasek holds a fulgurite, a rock formed by an electric discharge that passes through nearby rock, soil and sand. Fulgurites are also known as 'fossilized lightning.'
ADVERTISEMENT
Lightning strike creates phosphorus material for the first time on Earth
by Staff Writers
Tampa FL (SPX) Apr 12, 2023

After lightning struck a tree in a New Port Richey neighborhood, a University of South Florida professor discovered the strike led to the formation of a new phosphorus material. It was found in a rock - the first time in solid form on Earth - and could represent a member of a new mineral group.

"We have never seen this material occur naturally on Earth - minerals similar to it can be found in meteorites and space, but we've never seen this exact material anywhere," said geoscientist Matthew Pasek.

In a recent study published in Communications Earth and Environment, Pasek examines how high-energy events, such as lightning, can cause unique chemical reactions, and in this instance, result in a new material - one that is transitional between space minerals and minerals found on Earth.

"When lightning strikes a tree, the ground typically explodes out and the surrounding grass dies, forming a scar and sending electric discharge through nearby rock, soil and sand, forming fulgurites, also known as 'fossilized lightning'," Pasek said.

When the New Port Richey homeowners discovered the 'lightning scar', they found a fulgurite and decided to sell it, assuming it had value. Pasek purchased it, and later began a collaboration with Luca Bindi, a professor of mineralogy and crystallography at the University of Florence in Italy.

Together, the team set out to investigate unusual minerals that bear the element phosphorus, especially those formed by lightning, to better understand high-energy phenomena.

"It's important to understand how much energy lightning has because then we know how much damage a lightning strike can cause on average and how dangerous it is," Pasek said. "Florida is the lightning capital of the world and lightning safety is important - if lightning is strong enough to melt rock, it can certainly melt people too."

In wet environments, such as in Florida, Pasek says iron will often accumulate and encrust tree roots. In this case, not only did the lightning strike combust the iron on the tree roots, but it combusted the naturally occurring carbon in the tree as well. The two elements led to a chemical reaction that created a fulgurite that looked like a metal 'glob.'

Inside the fulgurite, a colorful, crystal-like matter revealed a material never before discovered.

Co-principal investigator Tian Feng, a graduate of USF's geology program, attempted to remake the material in a lab. The experiment was unsuccessful and indicates the material likely forms quickly under precise conditions, and if heated too long, will turn into the mineral found in meteorites.

"Previous researchers indicate that lightning reduction of phosphate to have been a widespread phenomenon on the early Earth," Feng said. "However, there is an environmental phosphite reservoir issue in Earth that these solid phosphite materials are hard to restore."

Feng says this research may reveal other forms of reduced minerals are plausible and many could have been important in the development of life on Earth.

According to Pasek, it's unlikely this material could be mined for uses similar to other phosphates, such as fertilizer, given the rarity of it occurring naturally. However, Pasek and Bindi plan to further investigate the material to determine if it could be officially declared a mineral and bring additional awareness to the scientific community.

Research Report:Routes to reduction of phosphate by high-energy events

Related Links
University of South Florida
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
TECH SPACE
What can we do about all the plastic waste
Lemont IL (SPX) Mar 30, 2023
An interdisciplinary team of scientists, led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Ames and Argonne National Laboratories, have banded together to develop new ways to chemically recycle plastics and transform them into more valuable products, a process called upcycling. This effort is led by the Institute for the Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics (iCOUP), a DOE Office of Science Energy Frontier Research Center. iCOUP brings together chemists and materials scientists from the ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
TECH SPACE
NASA awards innovative concept studies for science, exploration

New book explores possibilities of colonizing planets, moons and beyond

Axiom Space's upcoming ISS mission part of increasing commercialization of space

Makenzie Lystrup named first female director of Goddard Space Flight Center

TECH SPACE
Musk's Twitter marks BBC, NPR as 'government funded' but not Tesla or SpaceX

Purdue offering new online Hypersonics Graduate Certificate

NASA's TEMPO spacecraft hitched a ride with Intelsat's 40e satellite on a SpaceX rocket

Privately built, liquid-fuel rocket first in world to reach orbit in debut flight

TECH SPACE
Scoping out the next sampling stop for Perseverance

New interactive mosaic uses NASA imagery to show Mars in vivid detail

Ready for Software Upgrade Sols 3786-3788

MOXIE Celebrates 2 Years on Mars: Discoveries and Work Left To Do

TECH SPACE
China's inland space launch site advances commercial services

China's Shenzhou XV astronauts complete 3rd spacewalk

China's Shenzhou-15 astronauts to return in June

China's space technology institute sees launches of 400 spacecraft

TECH SPACE
Rocket Lab to launch NASA's cyclone-tracking satellite constellation from New Zealand

Unseenlabs ready for Bro-9 satellite launch dedicated vessel geolocation from space

Kenya to launch first operational satellite next week

O'Shaughnessy Ventures announces investment in Atomos Space

TECH SPACE
UIUC researchers image magnetic behavior at the smallest scales to date

Google selects SpaceChain into its Startups Program

SwRI joins new NASA institute to qualify, certify additive manufacturing methods

Electrification push will have enormous impacts on critical metals supply chain

TECH SPACE
Do Earth-like exoplanets have magnetic fields

New paper investigates exoplanet climates

JWST confirms giant planet atmospheres vary widely

Planet hunting and the origins of life

TECH SPACE
Europe's Jupiter probe launched

Spotlight on Ganymede, Juice's primary target

Search for alien life extends to Jupiter's icy moons

Europe's JUICE mission to launch for Jupiter's icy moons

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.