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Scientific Research Generates Interest


Fluorescent fluorite and calcite specimen from the pure potential mine in Arizona

Any discussion of mineral fluorescence must start with the mineral that is the anchor and cornerstone of fluorescence: fluorite. Aft er all, fluorite is the mineral that gave its name to this unusual phenomenon. Fluorite is a calcium fluoride that does not always respond to ultra violet (UV) light. Only when the mineral contains some impurity that acts as an activator will the specimen respond under UV excitation. For example, in the Midwest it can be some form of hydrocarbon and the fluorescent response is yellowish.

For fluorite that turns a lovely blue under long wave UV light, the activator is a rare earth element, europium. Rare earth elements are grouped at the bottom of the Periodic Table of Elements, and several of them can serve as activators.

The rare earth elements are so named because they really are uncommon. They are called “earth” because when first discovered they could only be separated as earthly oxides, though in pure form they are metals. Today they are important in the construction of electronics, including televisions and computers.

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Rock & Gem April 2019, WorkShops in the Wild : Lifelong Learning at Wildacres, Emergence of Flourescence, Bladed Barite : In the East Potrillo Mountains, And More....