The new mineral is unique in structure and composition among the world's 4,000 known mineral species.
'Putnisite', described in Mineralogical Magazine by a visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide, was found in a surface outcrop at Lake Cowan in central Western Australia.
After x-raying a single crystal of the mineral, Dr Peter Elliott realised it was completely unlike anything currently known.
“Most minerals belong to a family or small group of related minerals, or if they aren’t related to other minerals they often are to a synthetic compound – but putnisite is completely unique and unrelated to anything.
“Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in a laboratory," he said in a press release.
Named after Australian mineralogists Andrew and Christine Putnis, Putnisite occurs as tiny crystals, no more than about 0.5mm in diameter, and is found on a volcanic rock. It appears as dark pink spots on the dark green and white rock, and under the microscope looks cube-shaped.
It's made up of an unusual combination of the elements strontium, calcium, chromium, sulphur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.
The researchers have yet to be determined if the new mineral will have any practical use. For now it's just wonderful to know there's still plenty left to discover in the world.