'Kryptonite' discovered in mine
The real kryptonite - Jadarite (NHM)
Very definitely not green
Kryptonite is no longer just the stuff of fiction feared by caped
A new mineral matching its unique chemistry - as described in the film
Superman Returns - has been identified in a mine in Serbia.
According to movie and comic-book storylines, kryptonite is supposed to
sap Superman's powers whenever he is exposed to its large green crystals.
The real mineral is white and harmless, says Dr Chris Stanley, a
mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.
"I'm afraid it's not green and it doesn't glow either - although it will
react to ultraviolet light by fluorescing a pinkish-orange," he told BBC
Researchers from mining group Rio Tinto discovered the unusual mineral
and enlisted the help of Dr Stanley when they could not match it with
anything known previously to science.
Once the London expert had unravelled the mineral's chemical make-up, he
was shocked to discover this formula was already referenced in
literature - albeit fictional literature.
"Towards the end of my research I searched the web using the mineral's
chemical formula - sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide - and was
amazed to discover that same scientific name, written on a case of rock
containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film
"The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film)
and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry
matches that for the rock containing kryptonite."
The mineral is relatively hard but is very small grained. Each
individual crystal is less than five microns (millionths of a metre)
Identifying its atomic structure required sophisticated analytical
facilities at Canada's National Research Council and the assistance and
expertise of its researchers, Dr Pamela Whitfield and Dr Yvon Le Page.
"'Knowing a material's crystal structure means scientists can calculate
other physical properties of the material, such as its elasticity or
thermochemical properties," explained Dr Le Page.
"Being able to analyse all the properties of a mineral, both chemical
and physical, brings us closer to confirming that it is indeed unique."
Finding out that the chemical composition of a material was an exact
match to an invented formula for the fictitious kryptonite "was the
coincidence of a lifetime," he added.
The mineral cannot be called kryptonite under international nomenclature
rules because it has nothing to do with krypton - a real element in the
Periodic Table that takes the form of a gas.
Instead, it will be formally named Jadarite when it is described in the
European Journal of Mineralogy later this year.
Jadar is the name of the place where the Serbian mine is located.
Dr Stanley said that if deposits occurred in sufficient quantity it
could have some commercial value.
It contains boron and lithium - two valuable elements with many
applications, he explained.
"Borosilicate glasses are used to encapsulate processed radioactive
waste, and lithium is used in batteries and in the pharmaceutical