Electrical discharge triggers quasicrystal formation in an eolian dune

Luca Bindi, Matthew A. Pasek, Chi Ma, Jinping Hu, Guangming Cheng, Nan Yao, Paul D. Asimow, Paul J. Steinhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We report the discovery of a dodecagonal quasicrystal Mn72.3Si15.6Cr9.7Al1.8Ni0.6-composed of a periodic stacking of atomic planes with quasiperiodic translational order and 12-fold symmetry along the two directions perpendicular to the planes-accidentally formed by an electrical discharge event in an eolian dune in the Sand Hills near Hyannis, Nebraska, United States. The quasicrystal, coexisting with a cubic crystalline phase with composition Mn68.9Si19.9Ni7.6Cr2.2Al1.4, was found in a fulgurite consisting predominantly of fused and melted sand along with traces of melted conductor metal from a nearby downed power line. The fulgurite may have been created by a lightning strike that combined sand with material from downed power line or from electrical discharges from the downed power line alone. Extreme temperatures of at least 1,710°C were reached, as indicated by the presence of SiO2 glass in the sample. The dodecagonal quasicrystal is an example of a quasicrystal of any kind formed by electrical discharge, suggesting other places to search for quasicrystals on Earth or in space and for synthesizing them in the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2215484119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • electrical discharge
  • fulgurite
  • quasicrystal
  • shock
  • solar system


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