Formation of natural gypsum megacrystals in Naica, Mexico

Armine Hareyan's picture

The recently discovered Cave of Crystals in Naica (Chihuahua, Mexico) contains some of the largest and most fascinating natural crystals ever found: transparent gypsum beams up to 11 meters long.

This natural wonder poses some very interesting questions related to both the preservation of such crystals and, much more puzzling, the conditions and mechanisms that could explain their origin. A cross-disciplinary team of Spanish and Mexican scientists worked to address these questions using geochemical evidence collected onsite and a set of crystal growth physics models. Their research shows that these megacrystals formed by a self-feeding mechanism driven by a solution-mediated, anhydrite-gypsum phase transition. Nucleation kinetics calculations based on laboratory data show that this mechanism can account for the formation of these giant crystals, yet only when operating within the very narrow range of temperature identified by García-Ruiz et al.'s fluid inclusion study. -Geological Society of America

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