Dr. Chris Stanley was enlisted as an expert when workers in a Serbian mine found a mineral they could not identify as any previously known. The chemical formula, sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, was not referenced in the scientific literature, but it was referenced in literature — specifically that of science fiction. A Web search by Dr. Stanley revealed that the new mineral closely matches the chemical composition of kryptonite as described in the latest Superman film…
The chemical formula of the new mineral was written on a case containing kryptonite that Lex Luthor had stolen from a museum in the film Superman returns. The sole difference seems to be that Superman’s kryptonite also contains fluorine whereas the new mineral does not.
Most of us are familiar with the story. Superman was sent to Earth just prior to the destruction of his home planet of Krypton. The Earth’s sun provided Superman with the source of his powers while the only known object that could injure him was the radioactive material called kryptonite, essentially a piece of his home planet.
According to the comics and films, kryptonite is supposed to be green, glowing and radioactive, however the real mineral is white, powdery and non-radioactive, although Dr. Stanley, a mineralogist at London’s Natural History Museum, claims that it does fluoresce a pinkish-orange color when exposed to ultraviolet light. Even if the fluorine were present, as in the kryptonite of lore, the mineral would remain white and non-radioactive.
The new mineral was recently put on display at Belgrade’s Museum of Natural Sciences and visitors turned out in large numbers to catch a glimpse of it. Green lighting ensured the mineral took on the green hue of legend, a sight that conjured a world stranger than fiction.
The mineral, discovered by the mining group Rio Tinto, is to be formally named Jardarite after the name of the place where the mine was located in Serbia.
The commercial value of the mineral and its potential usage is not clear until further testing is done and the amount of the mineral deposit is assessed. Both boron and lithium are commercially viable elements used in industry to produce various products such as borosilicate glasses and lithium batteries.
Michael Little is an analytical chemist currently working at a research centre for an international pharmaceutical company. Originally from Nova Scotia, Michael now resides in Laval, Quebec with his wife and two children. Michael joined the GNN-i team as a science writer in May 2007. Read his collected articles here.