Accidental synthesis of a previously unknown quasicrystal in the first atomic bomb test

Luca Bindi, William Kolb, G. Nelson Eby, Paul D. Asimow, Terry C. Wallace, Paul J. Steinhardt

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The first test explosion of a nuclear bomb, the Trinity test of 16 July 1945, resulted in the fusion of surrounding sand, the test tower, and copper transmission lines into a glassy material known as "trinitite." Here, we report the discovery, in a sample of red trinitite, of a hitherto unknown composition of icosahedral quasicrystal, Si61Cu30Ca7Fe2. It represents the oldest extant anthropogenic quasicrystal currently known, with the distinctive property that its precise time of creation is indelibly etched in history. Like the naturally formed quasicrystals found in the Khatyrka meteorite and experimental shock syntheses of quasicrystals, the anthropogenic quasicrystals in red trinitite demonstrate that transient extreme pressure-temperature conditions are suitable for the synthesis of quasicrystals and for the discovery of new quasicrystalforming systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2101350118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Atomic bomb
  • Khatyrka
  • Quasicrystals
  • Shock
  • Trinitite


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