Serendipitous Quasicrystals...


Cross-section of a fulgurite sample showing fused sand and melted conductor metal from a downed powerline. Credit: Luca Bindi et al.

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Energy, Materials Science

A team of researchers from Università di Firenze, the University of South Florida, California Institute of Technology, and Princeton University has found an incidence of a quasicrystal formed during an accidental electrical discharge.

In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of a quasicrystal found in a sand dune in Nebraska.

Quasicrystals, as their name suggests, are crystal-like substances. They possess characteristics not found in ordinary crystals, such as a non-repeating arrangement of atoms. To date, quasicrystals have been found embedded in meteorites and in the debris from nuclear blasts. In this new effort, the researchers found one embedded in a sand dune in Sand Hills, Nebraska.

A study of the quasicrystal showed it had 12-fold, or dodecagonal, symmetry—something rarely seen in quasicrystals. Curious about how it might have formed and ended up in the sand dune, the researchers did some investigating. They discovered that a power line had fallen on the dune, likely due to a lightning strike. They suggest the electrical surge from either the power line or the lightning could have produced the quasicrystal.

The researchers note that the quasicrystal was found inside a tubular piece of fulgurite. They suggest it was also formed during the electrical surge due to the fusing of melted sand and metal from the power line.

Quasicrystal formed during accidental electrical discharge, Bob Yirka,

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