Shock synthesis of quasicrystals with implications for their origin in asteroid collisions

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We designed a plate impact shock recovery experiment to simulate the starting materials and shock conditions associated with the only known natural quasicrystals, in the Khatyrka meteorite. At the boundaries among CuAl5 , (Mg0.75 Fe2+ 0.25)2 SiO4 olivine, and the stainless steel chamber walls, the recovered specimen contains numerous micron-scale grains of a quasicrystalline phase displaying face-centered icosahedral symmetry and low phason strain. The compositional range of the icosahedral phase is Al68-73 Fe11-16 Cu10-12 Cr1-4 Ni1-2 and extends toward higher Al/(Cu+Fe) and Fe/Cu ratios than those reported for natural icosahedrite or for any previously known synthetic quasicrystal in the Al-Cu-Fe system. The shock-induced synthesis demonstrated in this experiment reinforces the evidence that natural quasicrystals formed during a shock event but leaves open the question of whether this synthesis pathway is attributable to the expanded thermodynamic stability range of the quasicrystalline phase at high pressure, to a favorable kinetic pathway that exists under shock conditions, or to both thermodynamic and kinetic factors.