Nuclear Tests Spawn Impossible “Atomic Quasicrystals”

In 2011, when studying fragments of a meteorite, a strange formation was found that resembled a “parody” of a crystal. It had an ordered atomic lattice, but this order was constantly changing and was not repeated throughout the entire volume of matter. Scientists have observed something similar since the 1980s in experiments with nuclear weapons, but as a side effect. To collect material for study, they went to the site of the first atomic explosion in history, to the “Trinity Site”, where they found a unique “quasicrystal” of sand and copper.


Quasicrystals are called impossible, because there are practically no conditions on Earth for their appearance. We need colossal temperature and pressure, as in a collision at tremendous speeds of a pair of meteorites. Or an atomic explosion, when, as in the case of Trinity’s tests, the desert sand, copper of the control wires and some metal from the support tower decomposed into atoms in a split second, and then were baked with a monstrous heat into a new form of substance.

Technically, the quasicrystal from the Trinity site has a 5-fold rotational symmetry, if you rotate it 360 degrees, it will take the same appearance five times. Most classical crystals have a magnification ranging from 2 to 4, but 6-fold samples are also known. Research into the unusual structure of this material has just begun.

So far, the most useful way to use quasicrystals is to find nuclear explosion sites. Unlike radioactive debris, such crystals are very stable and potentially eternal, so it will be possible to find places where unauthorized explosions were carried out decades later. In addition, scientists hope that the analysis of the structure of quasicrystals will help determine the parameters of the explosion itself, which turns them into valuable evidence in the investigation of war crimes.

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