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The first nuclear test in history was unique in many ways. One of them is not often mentioned

On July 16, 1945, the first ever ground test of a nuclear weapon took place. Many years later, scientists discovered that the so-called quasi-crystal.

It is the form of solid that is characterized by an unusual arrangement of atoms. They give the impression of forming a regular but unique structure. Because of the extreme conditions required for quasicrystals to form, they are rarely found on Earth.

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But let’s get back to the trial itself, which took place early this morning in New Mexico. The Trinity test released energy equivalent to a 21 kiloton TNT explosion. Then a previously unknown mineral was created, which scientists named tritite. It took many years for researchers to uncover all its secrets.

One of them turned out to be the presence of a quasi-crystal. The actual discovery of this form took place only in 1984, when Dan Shechtman conducted research on the alloy of aluminum with manganese. To the science of the time, Zechtman’s conclusions were surprising to say the least, as crystals were generally thought to be either ordered or disordered. However, over time, this news was accepted, confirmed by quasi-crystals found in nature (for example, in meteorites) and created in laboratory conditions.

The first nuclear test took place on July 16, 1945

Luca Bindi of the University of Florence and his colleagues decided to analyze the trinity in detail. However, the researchers did not consider the green, relatively common form, but the red, which is much rarer. Scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction aided the study, making it possible to analyze six samples of red tritite. In one study, scientists observed a 20-sided grain of silicon, copper, calcium, and iron, with a fivefold rotational symmetry not possible with conventional crystals. Details of the discovery can be found in PNAS.

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Thus, the world of science has at its disposal the oldest quasi-crystal in history created thanks to human involvement. At the same time, these findings suggest that there may be other natural pathways for quasicrystal formation. One of these may be for sand fulgurites produced by lightning strikes. Another might include samples from meteor impact sites. Furthermore, it is possible to detect illegal nuclear tests by tracking such quasi-crystals.

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