World's finest gold specimen probed with Los Alamos neutrons

phys.org | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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Using neutron characterization techniques a team of scientists have peered inside one of the most unique examples of wire gold, understanding for the first time the specimen's structure and possible formation process. The 263 gram, 12 centimeter tall specimen, known as the Ram's Horn, belongs to the collection of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum Harvard University (MGMH).

"Almost nothing other than the existence of the specimen is known about wire gold," said Sven Vogel, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory's neutron science center, LANSCE, a half-mile-long particle accelerator that provides high- and low-energy protons and neutrons for a wide variety of scientific research.

Ground - Hog - Mine - Red - Cliff

Found in 1887 at the Ground Hog Mine in Red Cliff, Colorado, mysteriously shaped like a twisted bunch of wires instead of the more recognizable golden nugget, the Ram's Horn has baffled mineralogists since its discovery. The unknown: what is its fundamental structure and how did it form?

"Some native metals, a metal or metal alloy found in nature can occur in what is called wire morphology," said John Rakovan, Professor of Mineralogy at Miami University in Ohio. "Much more common in silver, the wire morphology is rarely seen in gold samples and this specimen is without question the finest known example."

Rarity - Value - Specimen - Density - X-rays

Because of its rarity and associated monetary value it is not possible to cut into or break open the specimen, and because of its density low-energy X-rays and other diagnostics can only interrogate exterior surfaces, so no scientific studies have ever been published on the internal nature of this specimen, until now.

The research results suggest the wire gold is very different from wire silver. "Wire silver is a mosaic-like polycrystalline aggregate with many hundreds to thousands of crystals in a single wire," said Rakovan. "The gold appears to be composed of only a few single crystals. Furthermore, we...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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