New Material Discoverd in Rock Bought on eBay

A Rock Bought on eBay Leads A Geoscientist to Discover a New Material

It’s always interesting the items you could possibly find on eBay. University of South Florida geoscientist Matthew Pasek recently published a study on a phosphorus material that could represent a member of a new mineral group, and it started with a purchase on eBay.

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Axios reports that Pasek found the material in a rock he bought on the marketplace that came from the spot of a lightning strike in New Port Richey, Florida a decade ago.

What makes his find fascinating is that this substance is comparable to what is generally found in meteorites and outer space. But this is the first time that it has been observed in a solid state in nature on our planet.

Phosphorus plays a crucial role in the fertilization of crops. Nevertheless, excessive amounts of phosphorus, often originating from fertilizers, manure, or sewage, can lead to the emergence of toxic algae blooms such as red tide.

According to Pasek, this substance could be instrumental in reclaiming phosphorus in order to promote environmental sustainability. Furthermore, it could aid in the identification of other effects associated with the leakage of phosphorus into the ecosystem.

“Understanding the natural world and what solids are present is part of the understanding of how elements move, how we recycle things,” Pasek told Axios.

Why eBay? Pasek has been on the hunt for rocks displaying evidence of “fossilized lightning.” And while he didn’t explain exactly what brought him to eBay, if one looks on the marketplace, there are thousands of listings of rocks, some in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Ironically, Pasek didn’t buy an expensive item. He said the rock he bought from eBay, which contains the new phosphorus material, was a bit pricier than what he usually spends. It cost him around $150.

“The entire set was probably $150 or so, but to me, now, it has been very much priceless because it has something completely new in it,” he told Spectrum News. “They saw that a tree had gotten struck by lightning and then dug up around the roots this fulgurite. So, they put it up knowing they had something somewhat valuable.”

If you are scientifically inclined, here is the published study on this newly discovered material. Original story by Axios (here) and Spectrum News (here).

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