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Are the Naica giant crystals deteriorating because of human action?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2020

M. E. Montero-Cabrera*
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
I. J. A. Carreño-Márquez
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
I. Castillo-Sandoval
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
B. Pérez-Cázares
Affiliation:
Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31125, Mexico
L. E. Fuentes-Cobas
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
H. E. Esparza-Ponce
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
E. Menéndez-Méndez
Affiliation:
Instituto Eduardo Torroja de Ciencias de la Construcción, Madrid 28033, Spain
M. E. Fuentes-Montero
Affiliation:
Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31125, Mexico
H. Castillo-Michel
Affiliation:
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble Cedex 9 38043, France
D. Eichert
Affiliation:
Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A., AREA Science Park, Basovizza (Trieste) 34149, Italy
R. Loredo-Portales
Affiliation:
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Hermosillo 83000, Mexico
J. Canche-Tello
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
M. Y. Luna-Porres
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
G. González-Sánchez
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
D. Burciaga-Valencia
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
C. Caraveo-Castro
Affiliation:
Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados (CIMAV), Chihuahua 31136, Mexico
G. Gómez-Méndez
Affiliation:
Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31125, Mexico
L. Muñoz-Castellanos
Affiliation:
Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31125, Mexico
I. Reyes-Cortes
Affiliation:
Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31125, Mexico
*
a)Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. Electronic mail: elena.montero@cimav.edu.mx

Abstract

The giant gypsum crystals of Naica cave have fascinated scientists since their discovery in 2000. Human activity has changed the microclimate inside the cave, making scientists wonder about the potential environmental impact on the crystals. Over the last 9 years, we have studied approximately 70 samples. This paper reports on the detailed chemical–structural characterization of the impurities present at the surface of these crystals and the experimental simulations of their potential deterioration patterns. Selected samples were studied by petrography, optical and electronic microscopy, and laboratory X-ray diffraction. 2D grazing incidence X-ray diffraction, X-ray μ-fluorescence, and X-ray μ-absorption near-edge structure were used to identify the impurities and their associated phases. These impurities were deposited during the latest stage of the gypsum crystal formation and have afterward evolved with the natural high humidity. The simulations of the behavior of the crystals in microclimatic chambers produced crystal dissolution by 1–4% weight fraction under high CO2 concentration and permanent fog, and gypsum phase dehydration under air and CO2 gaseous environment. Our work suggests that most surface impurities are of natural origin; the most significant anthropogenic damage on the crystals is the extraction of water from the caves.

Type
Proceedings Paper
Copyright
Copyright © 2020 International Centre for Diffraction Data

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References

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