You Could Find, Name a New Mineral
Scientists hope open challenge will reveal 145 unknown carbon minerals
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2015 9:06 AM CST
This July 2012 photo shows a graphite core sample. Graphite is a mineral of pure carbon.   (AP Photo/Graphite One Resources, Dean Besserer)

(Newser) – Imagine flooring your friends with the line: "I discovered a carbon mineral." Scientists with the Deep Carbon Observatory hope that will one day be your fate. They've started the Carbon Mineral Challenge, which is urging professional and amateur mineral collectors to scour the planet for carbon-bearing minerals. Scientists believe carbon minerals evolved over time and 406 varieties have been found so far. New ones have been popping up at a rate of about four a year since 2010, but scientists estimate there are at least 145 yet to be discovered, per Smithsonian. "They could be hiding in any corner of the world," says challenge leader Daniel Hummer. "A good way to put it is that we're crowd-sourcing mineralogical research." Want to get in on the action? Scientists offer a few tips: The minerals are probably colorless, poorly crystallized or powdery, a form of carbonate, and may disappear and reappear in time with events like rainfall.

They may also be found at a few key sites including Canada's Poudrette Quarry, Kukisvumchorr Mountain in Russia, and Clara Mine in Germany, where other carbon minerals have been discovered, according to a release. Have access to a rock collection? That'll work, too, since there could be "minerals hiding in drawers right now … that we don’t even know we have," says Hummer. Indeed, "it will be fascinating to see what new and exciting carbon minerals might be lurking in our Smithsonian collection drawers," a mineral expert at the museum tells Scientific American. A team of 25 scientists will review all promising discoveries over the next four years. Once a mineral passes composition and structure tests using electron microprobe analysis and X-ray crystallography, the lucky discoverer will get to propose a name. The only caveat: You can't name a mineral after yourself. (Gold miners found this new mineral.)