Diamond may be the strongest natural substance known, but researchers have just created an intense competition.
By shooting a dime-sized graphite disk at a wall at 15,000 miles per hour (24,100 km / h), scientists instantly created a hexagonal diamond that’s stronger and stronger than the natural cubic type.
Hexagonal diamond, also known as Lonsdaleite diamond, is a special type of diamond with it carbon Atoms Arranged in a hexagonal pattern. Formed when graphite is subjected to intense heat and pressure, such as at meteorite impact sites, it has long been theorized that rare matter is stronger than ordinary cubic diamond.
However, because the hexagonal diamond found in impact pits contains a lot of impurities, scientists have never accurately measured its properties.
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Now, researchers have not only formulated the hexagonal diamond, but have also measured their hardness – the ability to resist shape deformation when compressed or stretched – with a combination of sound waves and laser light.
“Diamonds are a very unique material,” said study co-author Yogendra Gupta, director of the Washington State University Institute for Trauma Physics. He said in a statement. “It is not only the strongest – it has beautiful optical properties and a very high thermal conductivity. Now we made the hexagonal shape from diamond, which was produced under shock pressure experiments, and it is much stronger and stronger than regular gemstones.”
Cubic diamonds typically form more than 90 miles (150 kilometers) below the Earth’s surface, are under intense pressures many times greater than the depths of the ocean, and temperatures exceeding 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius). But to form the hexagonal diamond, the researchers simulated the high-energy impact of a meteor strike, using gunpowder and compressed air to fire graphite disks at incredible speeds. When the discs hit a wall, the shock waves quickly turned the disks into hexagonal diamonds.
To measure a diamond’s strength and hardness in a fraction of a second before the minerals were shattered into small pieces, the researchers fired a sound wave and measured how fast it traveled through the hexagon using a laser. (The sound waves cause the diamond’s density to fluctuate as it travels, which affects the path length of the laser beam.) The more solid the material, the faster the sound travels through it.
It is difficult to know if a hex diamond is more difficult than a medium diamond. Hardness is a measure of how difficult it is to scratch a material’s surface, and a hex diamond has not been around long enough for scientists to scratch it.
Currently, scientists haven’t figured out a way to create more long-lived hex diamonds in the lab, but if a method is discovered, researchers expect a range of uses for it – from more effective drill bit tips, to fancier engagement rings. .
“If we can someday produce and polish them, I think they will be required more than cubic diamonds,” Gupta said. “If someone says to you, ‘Look, I’ll give you a choice of two diamonds: one is rarer than the other. “Which would you choose?”
The researchers published their findings March 31 in the journal Physical review b.
Originally published on Live Science.