ASH: Sourcebook - Collapsinum
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Fri May 2 17:10:15 PDT 2008
[NATIONAL SECURITY NOTICE: This summary is classified SECRET under the laws
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NON-SECURE ( )
NAC DSHA Summary HWDF-3525-C/rev32
Prepared by: (redacted)
Date of last revision: March 23, 2026
Recommended Crossreferences: DSHA HWDA-1204-C (Violation Physics), DSHA
CYSA-0923-D (WarStar), DSHA HQJD-0324-B (Fischertronics), (redacted),
(redacted), DOE 6432534 (Summary of solid state physics), (redacted).
"For instance, nature allows the existence of a seamless
diamond sphere filled with creamy meringue, but it's not exactly
easy to make without breaking the rules somewhere."
- Dr. Wilson Blair, to an audience of graduate students at
the University of Chicago, 1988
The existence of the Magene makes the impossible possible and the
improbable inevitable, but not everything that results from Violation Physics
is itself a violation of the laws of nature. It may be highly unlikely, or
never actually found in nature, but there's plenty of things not found in
nature that can be created by the hand of a perfectly normal person.
Collapsed metals are an example of the sort of "meringue-filled diamond
shell" that Violation Physics makes possible, and this summary is meant to
provide interested non-scientists with a general idea of what collapsed
metals are, how they're made, and what their properties are.
1. The Band Theory of Solids
Disclaimer, should any solid state physicists be reading this: this is a
"toy" treatment of band theory, likely inaccurate or even misleading in many
ways. The intent is to get across certain elements of the theory in a way
that an interested non-specialist can follow, shocking as that may be to find
in an official government document.
Of course, if you know how band theory really works, you probably don't
need to read this summary in the first place, so skip ahead to section 2.
It's common sense that two things can't be in the same place at the same
time...where would you put them both? However, on the quantum scale, where
things are very tiny and exact positions are hard to nail down, one starts to
wonder if maybe you CAN put two things in the same place at the same time.
It turns out that under specific conditions (for instance, a state of matter
called a Bose-Einstein Condensate) you can indeed.
However, most "normal" matter is dominated by the properties of the
electrons that form the outer shells of atoms, and electrons are a kind of
matter known as "fermions". A fermion cannot share the same state as another
nearby fermion, where a "state" is all the information about the particle.
Not just position, but things like energy level, spin, and so forth. So, if
you bring two electrons together, one or both will have to change its state
at least a little bit so that they can coexist peacefully.
When you bring a bunch of atoms together, you find that all of those
electrons are bumping up against each other and trying to be in the same
state, but they can't. So, where an isolated atom might have nice,
well-defined energy levels for its electrons, these levels spread out into
bands when you bring a bunch of atoms together. The more atoms you have
grouped together, the thicker the bands are.
To simplify things a LOT, you can consider two types of band, called
valence and conduction. The valence bands pretty much just belong to their
own atoms...there's enough "sharing" to force band-widening, but the valence
bands really don't contribute to the inter-atomic interactions. The
conduction bands hold the electrons that are free to move about between
atoms, both carrying current (hence "conduction" bands) and cementing the
bonds between atoms. Thus, as a very rough approximation, you could say that
the size of the conduction band is related to the conductivity and strength
of a metal.
In the late 1920s, Felix Block and Sir Rudolf Peierls did the
groundbreaking work that established how this band structure worked,
demonstrating it was more effective at explaining the properties of metal
than the old model (that conduction electrons were arbitrarily free to move
about like a gas).
2. The History of Collapsed Metals
During World War II, one of the requests from the War Department was to
develop some sort of super-alloy that could be used to make vehicles
impervious to damage. While most work on this project concentrated on alloys
of titanium and steel, Professor Calvin Kirby wrote a short paper suggesting
that it might be possible to exploit band theory to turn an existing metal
into one that was stronger, by finding a way to somehow enhance the
conduction band. However, there's no record of anyone successfully managing
this feat during or immediately following the war.
In the 1970s, as Violation Physics started to become a proper branch of
science, there was a resurgence in interest in the work of "pseudoscientists"
of the past, and Kirby's paper was rediscovered. It was theorized that
coherent light from a laser tuned to exactly the right frequency might excite
part or all of the valence band of a metal, effectively making it join the
conduction band. Given that lasers had not been available during World War
II (leaving aside Harry Parker's Light Lance, which was not made available to
rank and file physicists), it's understandable how work might have hit a dead
end in the 1940s.
However, it turned out that it was not possible to make a laser precise
enough for the job, at least not with "normaltech". The range of frequencies
had to be extraordinarily small in order for the process to work, and even
the best available scientific lasers had frequency spreads several orders of
magnitude too large. Additionally, even with a properly tuned laser, doppler
effects due to atomic motion were enough to mean that only a small percentage
of any given sample could be "collapsed". What was needed was a laser that
not only exceeded current engineering issues, but also one that "knew" how
fast any given target was moving, which seemed to require some sort of causal
Doctor Edwina Berringer of Fischertronics, a low-level paranormal,
finally created an apparatus in 1983 that could do the job. She was able to
energize a sample of lithium (atomic number 3, so it only has three
electrons) with her laser and create what is now called Collapsium, or
collapsed lithium. It was called "collapsed" lithium because the
introduction of additional electrons to the conduction band allowed the atoms
to intermingle more closely, bringing the nuclei nearer to one another and
decreasing the bulk volume of the sample significantly.
Once Collapsium had proven the concept, a number of universities and
private labs with Violation Physics groups worked to replicate and improve on
the feat, similar to the boom in room-temperature superconductivity which
happened among normaltech labs during the same period. It was eventually
found that aluminum offered the most commercially viable collapsed metal, as
it could be manufactured in sizes large enough to be useful while being
strong enough to outperform any normal elemental or alloyed metal.
By 1994, Fischertronics was a leading producer of commercially available
"Collapsinum", and was working on ways to make collapsed iron a feasible
product. Collapsinum found many uses during the hectic Third Heroic Age, and
while never inexpensive in an absolute sense, it could be made cheaply enough
(by companies with access to the right supernormals, at least) that most
people had at least seen something made with it by 1997.
The loss of the planetary supernormal population in 1998 halted all
production of collapsed metals, but in 2015 the spectroscopic analysis of
supernovae revealed the possibility that collapsed iron might form naturally
in the death throes of supermassive stars...sometimes cream-filled diamonds
DO occur naturally.
3. General Properties of Collapsed Metals
The most important property of collapsed metals, in terms of "super
science", is that they are allowed by the rules of nature. This means that,
unlike materials reinforced by force fields or telekinetics or just plain
wishful thinking, collapsed metals are unaffected by the presence of an
Anchor. There is not currently any known way to manufacture collapsed metals
within invoking Violation Physics, but once they're made, they're stable.
As the name implies, all collapsed metals are denser than their normal
counterparts, which also makes them stronger. They have significantly higher
rigidity, and most of them are about as flexible as diamonds...which is to
say "not very flexible at all".
On the Mohs scale of material hardness, most collapsed metals rank above
10 (the value given to diamond). The Mohs scale is ordinal, which is to say
that it ranks materials but doesn't say anything about how much harder one
thing is compared to another. For instance, a Mohs 9 is twice as hard as 8,
but 10 is four times as hard as 9. As a result, collapsed metals that are
harder than diamond have fairly arbitrary Mohs numbers, since the only things
to compare them to are other collapsed metals, and not all collapsed metals
have been produced in quantities large enough to get a good reading on their
Somewhat more useful is the measure of absolute hardness, on which scale
diamonds score a 1500 and hardened steel about 200. However, since the
standard test for this value involves scoring a substance with a diamond,
values are rather approximate even here, as new standards have had to be
invented to measure absolute hardness of materials significantly stronger
Given that few collapsed metals are produced in sufficient quantity to
be used in a structural sense, moduli relating stress and strain are not
presented in this document. However, in general, they are extremely rigid
(high moduli) with very high ultimate strengths commensurate with their
An unfortunate side effect of the rigidity of collapsed metals is that
they tend to fail all at once, catastrophically shattering when their
ultimate strength is exceeded. Collapsinum is rarely repaired, for instance,
because when it breaks it does so in such a dramatic fashion that there's not
much left to fix. The shrapnel resulting from such a failure is also quite
Due to the higher number of electrons in their conducting bands,
collapsed metals are generally better conductors of electricity and heat
(although gold is an exception). In general, collapsed metals are
paramagnetic, or weakly affected by static magnetic fields. Even collapsed
iron is paramagnetic, as the collapsing process scrambles the magnetic
domains and the strength of the collapsed material prevents them from being
re-aligned as they can be in normal iron.
Collapsed metals tend to be far less chemically reactive than their
uncollapsed cousins, due to the fact that the atoms are bound together so
much more tightly. Some varieties may readily form patinas as they capture
gas molecules on their surface, but this will not weaken them or cause atoms
to split away. Only highly reactive substances such as certain acids are
able to affect collapsed metals.
Interestingly, the frequency of laser that is used in the collapsing
process can also be used to "uncollapse" the metal. Done carefully in a
laboratory setting, this process can be used to repair damaged collapsed
metals by uncollapsing the borders of a break, fusing in regular metal and
then re-collapsing it. In less controlled settings, this tends to shatter or
at least erode the collapsed metal, giving it a vulnerability to lasers...but
only if the attacker knows the correct frequencies and can tune their laser
more precisely than is humanly possible.
4. Types of Collapsed Metals
Scientifically speaking, all collapsed metals are simply referred to as
"collapsed (name of metal)" or indicated with a "-C" after the name of the
metal in cases where context is clear. However, several have gotten
unofficial names, and those are how the materials are typically presented in
Collapsium (collapsed lithium) - The first discovered, it's largely just
a scientific curiosity. In collapsed form, lithium's density roughly
doubles, becoming 1.03 g/cc. Its chemical properties change in a number of
ways that are interesting to scientists, but not particularly exciting to a
lay audience, and the Mohs hardness increases to 1.1. Given that regular
aluminum has a Mohs number of 2.75, Collapsium hardly qualifies as a "super
Collapsium should not be confused with a hypothetical state of matter
related to the substance of neutron stars, which is sometimes also called
Collapslium (collapsed beryllium) - This has been created in the lab,
but like collapsed lithium the results are not commercially attractive.
Additionally, the toxic effects of working with beryllium in the first place
make this unattractive even to researchers.
Collapsdium (collapsed sodium) - A bit more reactive than most collapsed
metals, and it readily forms a light gray patina. However, the difficulty in
working with pure sodium in the first place prevented the development of
commercial applications prior to the development of aluminum-C.
Collapsed Magnesium - This has never acquired a nickname, and has not
been much studied. Collapsed aluminum was perfected before magnesium-C, and
what little work has been done indicates that magnesium-C is inferior to
aluminum-C in every important respect.
Collapsinum (collapsed aluminum) - The most common form encountered, due
to its many useful properties. It has a density of 11.2 g/cc, or about fifty
percent more dense than steel and about four times as dense as regular
aluminum. The melting point is approximately 10000 degrees Kelvin, at which
point it is more likely to simply combust if any oxygen is present. It is
rather chemically unreactive, and only a very few acids can damage it.
Collapsinum conducts electricity about as well as gold, but since it's more
expensive than gold and much harder to form connections with, it's generally
not used in circuitry unless the circuits need to be abnormally durable.
The Mohs hardness of Collapsinum is hard to quantify due to the nature
of the Mohs scale, but it is generally set by convention at 12. Looking at
absolute hardness, properly made and defect-free Collapsinum has a hardness
of 4000, making it about twenty times harder than steel.
"Collapsinum" is sometimes used generically, to refer to any collapsed
Collapsnium (collapsed titanium) - Prior to the 2020s, this had only
been created in micrometer-scaled samples, with most work jumping ahead to
iron in the periodic table. However, theoretical work done in the 2010s
suggests that collapsed titanium may be superior to collapsed iron in many
respects, and numerous labs have hired Academy graduates to work on the race
to develop bulk Collapsnium.
It is estimated that Collapsnium will have an absolute hardness of 7000,
but a density of only 15 g/cc, making the hardness-to-weight ratio very
favorable compared to collapsed iron. It has provisionally been assigned a
Mohs hardness of 15 (13 and 14 are expected to go to potassium-C and
calcium-C should bulk quantities be created of those substances).
Collapsiron (collapsed iron) - The densest collapsed metal created by
human super-science, it has only been synthesized in grains of about the size
of table salt crystals. However, the extradimensional culture of the Third
Age would-be-conqueror WarStar has apparently mastered the production of bulk
Collapsiron. Additionally, grains up to two millimeters across have recently
been found in the remains of a meteor that struck near Khadam.
Collapsiron has a density of 40 g/cc, greater than any naturally
occurring solid found in the Earth's crust. It has been assigned a Mohs
number of 16 and is estimated to have an absolute hardness of over 10000. It
is as close to indestructible as can be made via scientific means, and even
tiny grains of it have tremendous applications in industry and scientific
The melting point is estimated to be approximately 20000K, and it only
reacts with a very limited number of materials, such as hydrofluoric acid.
While not superconducting, Collapsiron's conductivity is about three times as
high as any non-superconducting metal.
Collapsauron (collapsed gold) - The only known examples of this material
have been created by the self-proclaimed gods. No scientific procedure has
ever managed to create even a small amount, and it has remained outside the
grasp of even the wildest of "magical" supernormal talents.
Collapsauron has a density of 100 g/cc, but an absolute hardness of only
2000 (Mohs 11), due to the relatively soft nature of gold in its natural
form. Still, that's harder than diamond. Collapsauron is also nearly 100%
reflective, retaining only a faint golden tinge, and it's so chemically
non-reactive that it has been nicknamed "the noble metal". Even hydrofluoric
acid has no effect on Collapsauron. Its melting point is unknown, as no one
has ever managed to melt a sample. Oddly, Collapsauron isn't quite as good a
conductor as uncollapsed gold, and some theorize that this is related to the
fact that gold can never be made a superconductor at any attainable
The most famous example of Collapsauron is the statue of Phaeton in
Chicago. Due to its sheer mass, it immediately sank until the feet hit
bedrock, and even then it continued to sink slowly through solid rock. This
allowed scientists to perform numerous experiments on the material over the
years, until Tom Dodson (Lightfoot) of the Academy of Super-Heroes finished
sinking it. (It also allowed local citizens to spray-paint rude messages on
the statue, revealing that paint doesn't stick to Collapsauron very well.)
Given that the result of almost every test to date had been "nothing happens
to it", the decision has been made to just leave the statue underground,
rather than digging down to continue working with it.
Other metals - Collapsing metals of higher atomic number than 13
(Aluminum) is very difficult, and very few have gotten past "enough to write
a paper for Physical Review M" levels of production. Iron has gotten the
most attention of the trans-aluminum metals, in large part because WarStar's
AstroSpear proved that bulk quantities of Collapsiron had many desirable
properties. Scandium-C, on the other hand, has yet to excite much interest.
It should be noted that collapsing fissionables has been deemed to be a
Very Bad Idea, as increasing the density of fissionable material tends to
bring it that much closer to "critical mass" and spontaneous fissioning.
Fortunately, since most fissile metals are heavier than iron, making even
microscopic quantities of most collapsed fissiles would be nearly impossible.
5. Working With Collapsed Metals
Because of their high strength and rigidity, collapsed metals are
difficult to shape after being collapsed. Instead, pieces are usually shaped
first and then processed, creating plates or links that can be assembled into
larger shapes. The larger the piece, however, the more difficult it is to
get it to collapse evenly, leading to defects or even causing the piece to
shatter under the strain. As a result, most defensive uses of collapsed
metals involve small rigid plates in an overlapping "scale mail" array, or a
sort of chain mail mesh.
Even beyond the lack of malleability, it's difficult to do anything with
pieces of collapsed metal once they have been made. Their chemical non-
reactivity makes it difficult to glue anything to them, and their incredibly
high melting points make welding an exercise in futility. While some
supernormals have "metallokinesis" and are able to join together pieces of
Collapsinum as an exercise of power, these people are exceedingly rare (only
(redacted) known to exist in the Combine, plus (redacted) in the Eurasian
Union) and they invariably require much more time and effort to work with
collapsed metals than with normal metals.
As a result, larger objects made using collapsed metals tend to have an
almost primitivist look, using bolts and rivets driven through pre-made
holes. Embedding pieces of collapsed metal in either polymer or molten
normal metal is common enough, however, that not all Collapsinum-protected
objects are obvious as such.
Specially tuned lasers can be used to help join pieces of collapsed
metal, but it's a VERY touchy process, and can lead to a defect that shatters
the entire object. Explosively. Which is why robots are generally employed
for such endeavors.
For those interested more in strength than permanence, the conductive
properties of collapsed metals allow for strong magnetic induction. As long
as enough current is fed into the system, a normally loose collection of
Collapsinum plates can be locked into a rigid pattern, a trick employed by a
number of armored supernormals and pioneered in the construction of the
Ravenfire and Banshee "hardsuits" in 1990.
6. Extraterrestrial Collapsed Metals
As mentioned earlier, there is evidence of at least one naturally
occuring form of collapsed metal, collapsed iron formed in supernovae. It's
possible that others metals are collapsed in those massive stellar
explosions, although they may not be strong enough to survive the subsequent
As far as we know, the Planetary Confederation has not developed
collapsed metal technology. We don't know whether it's because the precision
required is still beyond even their advanced normaltech, or simply because
they never thought to try making metal-C before encountering it on Earth.
They certainly know about it now, however, so it may only be a matter of time
before they figure out how to make collapsed metals via purely normal
This has been...
The Story of Collapsinum
The "Super Metal" of the Academy of Super-Heroes Universe
Copyright 2008 by (redact...er, I mean) Dave Van Domelen
I came up with Collapsinum during one of my upper division physics
courses in college, when we learned about the band theory of solids. I've
never really gotten enough into solid state physics to know more than the
rough basics of band theory, but I know enough to say with confidence that
collapsed metals aren't actually possible. :) But it just has to be
plausible for science fiction, yes? Anyway, everything in section 1 is "real
world" stuff, although I'm not kidding about the disclaimer.
The opening quote is actually originally from the Supertech Taxonomy
file (http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/Supertech), but once I decided to
write this one as "in setting" I decided to attribute it to Dr. Blair.
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