Geophysicists have studied the properties of a quasicrystal, which was formed after the first nuclear explosion in the history of mankind. Writes about this PNAS.
On July 16, 1945, an event occurred that changed the course of our human history: the explosion of Trinity, the first nuclear bomb in history. This explosion led to the emergence of the first artificial quasicrystal.
“Quasicrystals form under extreme conditions that rarely exist on Earth,” explains geophysicist Terry Wallace of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “To create it would require a traumatic event with severe shock, temperature and pressure. This does not usually happen on Earth, but a nuclear explosion is an exception.”
The atoms of all crystals are always organized in a series of repeating patterns. With no exceptions. However, this rule does not apply to quasicrystals, the internal structure of which does not have periodic structures. Until the 1980s, it was believed that the existence of these quasicrystals was impossible until the Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman was able to recreate them in the laboratory, which allowed him to receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry after almost 20 years.
Now a team of scientists led by Italian geologist Luca Bindi has decided to study the remains of trinitite, a vitreous material that was formed after the explosion as a result of the Trinity test. It was inside the remnants of a kind of red trinitite that this quasicrystal appeared.
Using modern scanning techniques and X-rays, the researchers were able to identify the existence of the quasicrystal, although questions remain that they have not been able to answer. “This quasicrystal is magnificent in its complexity, but no one can tell us yet why it formed in this way,” Wallace explained.
This research, together with further study of the minerals produced by such explosions, could help scientists better understand their formation and ultimately lead to applied advances in materials science.