A newly discovered quasicrystal formed by the first nuclear explosion on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity test site in the New Mexico desert, could someday help scientists better understand illicit nuclear explosions and reduce nuclear proliferation.
“Understanding another countries’ nuclear weapons requires that we have a clear understanding of their nuclear testing programs,” said Terry C. Wallace, director emeritus of Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the paper about the discovery.
The newly discovered material was formed accidentally during the first atomic bomb test, which resulted in the fusion of surrounding sand, the test tower, and copper transmission lines into trinitite, a glassy material.
In crystals, the atoms are arranged in a pattern that repeats itself in three dimensions. Quasicrystals, first discovered in the 1980s, have an atomic structure of the constituent elements, but the pattern is not periodic.
The quasicrystal, created by the Trinity explosion in a sample of red trinitite, has 5-fold rotational symmetry, which is not possible in a natural crystal.