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

Bindi, Luca and Kolbe, William and Eby, G. Nelson and Asimow, Paul D. and Wallace, Terry C. and Steinhardt, Paul J. (2021) Accidental synthesis of a previously unknown quasicrystal in the first atomic bomb test. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118 (22). Art. No. e2101350118. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC8179242. doi:10.1073/pnas.2101350118.

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This article reports the discovery of a heretofore unknown icosahedral quasicrystal created by the detonation of the first nuclear device at Alamogordo, NM, on 16 July 1945 (the Trinity test). Like all quasicrystals, the new example violates crystallographic symmetry rules that apply to ordinary (periodic) crystals. It was found in a sample of red trinitite, a combination of glass fused from natural sand and anthropogenic copper from transmission lines used during the test. The new quasicrystal is the oldest extant anthropogenic quasicrystal known, whose place and moment of origin are known from the historic records of the Trinity test. The thermodynamic/shock conditions that formed it are roughly comparable to those that formed natural quasicrystals recently found in meteorites.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle Information
Bindi, Luca0000-0003-1168-7306
Eby, G. Nelson0000-0001-8702-1039
Asimow, Paul D.0000-0001-6025-8925
Wallace, Terry C.0000-0001-8328-0762
Additional Information:© 2021 Published under the PNAS license. Contributed by Paul J. Steinhardt, April 6, 2021 (sent for review February 8, 2021; reviewed by Peter C. Burns and Christopher Hamann) L.B. is funded by the MIUR-PRIN2017 project “TEOREM - deciphering geological processes using Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial ORE Minerals”, prot. 2017AK8C32 (Principal Investigator: L.B.). P.J.S. was supported in part by the Princeton University Innovation Fund for New Ideas in the Natural Sciences; and P.D.A. was supported in part by NSF Award 1725349. We thank Walter Steurer, William Steinhardt, and Bill Press for useful exchanges and Teresa Salvatici for the high-resolution pictures of the studied sample. Data Availability. All study data are included in the article and/or SI Appendix. Author contributions: L.B., P.D.A., and P.J.S. designed research; L.B. performed research; L.B. and P.D.A. analyzed data; L.B., W.K., G.N.E., P.D.A., and P.J.S. wrote the paper; W.K. contributed samples; and T.C.W. contributed to the paper. Reviewers: P.C.B., University of Notre Dame; and C.H., Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. The authors declare no competing interest. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR)2017AK8C32
Princeton UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:22
PubMed Central ID:PMC8179242
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210519-141317725
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Official Citation: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 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2021, 118 (22) e2101350118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101350118
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:109186
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:21 May 2021 14:05
Last Modified:08 Feb 2022 23:39

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