For 200 years, scientists have failed to grow a common mineral in the laboratory under the conditions believed to have formed it naturally. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan have finally pulled it off, thanks to a new theory developed from atomic simulations.

  • Addressing the long-standing “dolomite problem,” researchers have found that dolomite crystals require cycling of saturation conditions to grow. 
  • The findings provide new insights into how dolomite is formed and why modern dolomite is primarily found in natural environments with pH or salinity fluctuations. 
  • As per the simulation’s predictions, frequent cycling of a solution between supersaturation and undersaturation can speed up dolomite growth by up to 10 million times.

Dolomite problem

  • Dolomite—a key mineral in the Dolomite mountains in Italy, Niagara Falls, the White Cliffs of Dover and Utah’s Hoodoos—is very abundant in rocks older than 100 million years, but nearly absent in younger formations.
  • Two hundred years ago, the French naturalist Deodat de Dolomieu first described the sedimentary rock that forms a group of mountains in northern Italy. 
  • Grey, porous and frequently full of fossils, this rock type had never before been distinguished from the limestone it so closely resembles. 
  • But although dolomite is relatively simple to identify, its origins are less obvious. For 200 years, geologists have tried every tool available to them to discover how this enigmatic mineral forms.

About Dolomite

  • Dolomite, or calcium magnesium carbonate, CaMg(CO3)2, is a common mineral, usually found with limestone (calcium carbonate) and other sedimentary rocks.
  • Calcite and dolomite are both carbonate minerals that are commonly found in sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks. Calcite is the most common form of calcium carbonate. Dolomite contains calcium magnesium carbonate.

Uses of Dolomite

  • A source of carbon dioxide
  • A dimension stone.
  • A filler in fertilizers
  • A feed additive for livestock
  • A host rock for lead, zinc, and copper deposits
  • A flux in blast furnaces

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