Questions for ‘Beyond diamonds: Search is on for rare carbon crystals’


Graphite (left) and diamond (right) are two well-known minerals, both made of only carbon.

Robert Lavinsky/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

To accompany feature “Beyond diamonds: Search is on for rare carbon crystals” 


Before Reading: 

1.  What type of solid structural form does a mineral take? 

2.  Two well-known carbon minerals are graphite (found in pencils) and diamond. These minerals contain nothing but carbon, but they are different. Why might that be?

During Reading: 

1.  What is tinnunculite and where was it found?

2.  What is the Carbon Mineral Challenge?

3.  How many known minerals exist? How many contain carbon?

4.  How did researchers come up with a prediction for how many carbon-containing minerals are yet to be discovered?

5.  How is a new mineral verified?

6.  If a scientist makes a never-before-seen mineral in the lab, will the International Mineralogical Association add this to its inventory (or list) of new minerals? Why or why not?

7.  Give three reasons minerals may be rare.

8.  Give an example of a place that is likely to yield new minerals.

9.  Why might mines be good places to search for new minerals? Use information in the story to support your answer.

After Reading: 

1. Look at the map included with the story. Pick one of the places marked on the map. Explain why scientists or amateur mineralogists might want to go there to look for new minerals.

2. Scientists found a new mineral in bird poop. If you were going to do the same, how would you start? Would you look at certain species of birds? In certain places only? Do you think you could find a new mineral in bird poop outside your school? Why or why not?


1.  Scientists currently know about 416 carbon-containing minerals. They find an average of four more each year. At that rate, how many carbon-containing minerals will be known at the end of the century? How many would that be if scientists tripled their rate of discovery? Show your work.