Trinitite—the atomic rock



On 16 July 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated at the Alamogordo Bombing range in New Mexico, USA. Swept up into the nuclear cloud was the surrounding desert sand, which melted to form a green glassy material called ‘trinitite’. Contained within the glass are melted bits of the first atomic bomb and the support structures and various radionuclides formed during the detonation. The glass itself is marvelously complex at the tens to hundreds of micrometre scale, and besides glasses of varying composition also contains unmelted quartz grains. Air transport of the melted material led to the formation of spheres and dumbbell shaped glass particles. Similar glasses are formed during all ground level nuclear detonations and contain forensic information that can be used to identify the atomic device.