Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 185–198 | Cite as

The forensics of fulgurite formation

  • Matthew A. Pasek
  • Virginia D. Pasek
Original Paper


Natural disasters such as forest fires can result in extensive and costly property damage. These events may be the result of a human error or system failure triggered by electrical discharge, and in such circumstances may form a fulgurite. Understanding fulgurites and their formation may be critical in determining the cause of the fire or other, shock-related event. Here we identify several distinguishing features of fulgurites formed in association with downed power lines, including the presence of melted conductors, transformation of quartz to cristobalite, and morphological differences including increased glass percentage and smaller internal voids. These features are consequences of how heat is transferred to and through a target rock material as it melts and forms a fulgurite, and are predicted from both first principles of diffusive heat transfer, and empirically-derived reaction kinetics for mineral transformations.


Fulgurite Forensics Cristobalite Kinetics 



We thank Abdel Monem Mohamed Soltan, two anonymous reviewers, and handling editor Herbert Pöllmann for helpful comments on this manuscript. The present work was jointly supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astrobiology program under the NSF Center for Chemical Evolution, CHE-1504217, and also by the NASA exobiology and evolutionary biology program, grant NNX14AN96G.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Free Radical ConsultingSeffnerUSA

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