I had the pleasure to chat yesterday with Dr. Bill Carty from Alfred University about the story of the alumina/hematite hexagons that I learned from the Kusano et al. paper, which we’ve been exploring here in the microMondays blog posts.  Bill was most surprised by the part about the alumina hexagons crystallizing out of the melt, as the formation of only mullite crystals would be expected in the cooling of a simple aluminosilicate melt.  Bill and Dan Murphy (of Utah State University) and I came around to thinking that it must be something about the fluxes present and perhaps atmospheric reduction that promotes alumina crystallization, and therefore flashing, but the details are mysterious and will require further technical investigation.  To me it’s quite gratifying to experience the story coming full circle back to craft practice with the identification of compelling new questions for scientific research!

Next week we’ll move on to looking at a different sort of sample with quite different crystal properties that determine its surface qualities.

Acknowledgments:  Part of this work was performed at the Stanford Nano Shared Facilities (SNSF) of Stanford University.