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Pencil 'Lead' Mightier than Diamonds? 95

Posted by timothy
from the rapidograph-triumphs dept.
GuardianBob420 writes "Space Daily is reporting that a team of researchers has used a combination of extreme pressure and irradiation to alter the molecular structure of graphite -- resulting in a previously unobserved super-hard form of the stuff. From the article: 'The graphite that resulted from our experiment was so hard that when we released the pressure we saw that it had actually cracked the diamond anvil.'"
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Pencil 'Lead' Mightier than Diamonds?

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  • by Mac73117 (122267) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:33PM (#7283504)
    Does this mean deBeers will offer graphite engagement rings?

    Ducks...
  • by dacarr (562277) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:42PM (#7283597) Homepage Journal
    Now instead of a diamond ring, I just have to get her a number -9e-62 pencil! Now if I can only figure out where to get one....
    • As the number gets bigger, the pencil gets harder. I'm sure there's a joke there somewhere. The point is that you would buy a +9e62 pencil if you wanted a really hard one, er hard diamond. Damn why is it so hard, er, difficult to talk about carbon?
  • I want that diamond anvil!
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:54PM (#7283698)
    'The graphite that resulted from our experiment was so hard that when we released the pressure we saw that it had actually cracked the diamond anvil.'"

    Does this really prove anything? I broke lots of glass windows with rubber balls as a kid.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      What in the hell does that have to do with anything?? Are you really that dumb? jesus fucking christ

      How many windows have you broken with a grain of sand?
    • The point is, idiot, that just because you can break a with b doesn't make b harder than a.

      More proof of the downward spiral of slashdot.

      • The point is, idiot, that just because you can break a with b doesn't make b harder than a.

        Wow, two insulting comments to the guy, both of which agreed with him.

        I do so try, but simply can't force myself to act that ignorantly caustic.

        Impressive.


        More proof of the downward spiral of slashdot.

        No argument there, though your "proof" occurs one level deeper in the thread than you intended.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @07:58PM (#7285953)
          Even more impressive is that fact that he replied to himself, calling the first guy an idiot but looking like he called himself an idiot. Then there's you, who didn't notice this.

          Whee! This spiral ride is fun!
      • i thought that was the point of the post. in refrence to the graphite cracking the dimond anvil.
    • You're right, it doesn't really prove anything. My impression is that they are confusing the ability of a substance to withstand very high pressures with hardness. Now if you can actually scratch a diamond with this new form of carbon, then that would be a different story.
  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @03:59PM (#7283740) Homepage Journal
    ...that if they could mass-produce it could completely change our lives.

    I tell ya, there's a revolution in materials engineering happening. There are so many substances being discovered or created that have radical properties these days. Sooner or later one of them will be mass-produced cheaply and efficiently and we will have space elevators and super-powerful batteries and all kinds of other cool stuff.

    You know, it's a good thing Wile E. Coyote never got a hold of a diamond anvil.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You know, it's a good thing Wile E. Coyote never got a hold of a diamond anvil.

      The DeBeers cartel drove ACME out of the diamond market.
      • Yeah, two months' salary will only get you a Batman suit where the wings peel off when you hit a cliff.

        And let's not even go into the jet-powered pogo stick and earthquake pills.

        Face it, ACME was undercut.

  • Or very lightweight airplanes.

    Imagine computer cases that dont bend and break. Ever.

    Imagine taller skyscrapers.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Imagine there's no heaven,
      It's easy if you try,
      No hell below us,
      Above us only sky,
      Imagine all the people
      living for today...

      Imagine there's no countries,
      It isnt hard to do,
      Nothing to kill or die for,
      No religion too,
      Imagine all the people
      living life in peace...

      Imagine no possesions,
      I wonder if you can,
      No need for greed or hunger,
      A brotherhood of man,
      Imagine all the people
      Sharing all the world...

      You may say Im a dreamer,
      but Im not the only one,
      I hope some day you'll join us,
      And the world will live as one.
    • by borgboy (218060) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @04:41PM (#7284211)
      Imagine a popular geek writer penning a novel about an era when nanotech is rampant and carbon crystals are ubiquitous.

      Imagine reading that novel.

      Imagine [amazon.com]
    • I've never had a computer case that didn't break or bend. It's kind of hard to break or bend them when they spend 99.9999% of their time on a desk just sitting there.
    • Or 20 ft convertable muscle car hybrids painted black with 350 hp electric motors that do a 1/4 mile in 9 seconds with a flat torque band.

      And the whole thing weighs 1 ton and get 36 miles to the gallon. Eat it stupid Navigator muscle car wanabee. Try to take that turn at 100 mph.

      We have tax free trucks over 6000lbs now we just need cars under 1000 pounds to qualify too.

    • Imagine riding such a bicycle at the bottom of one of Jupiter's methane oceans. Don't understand? Go RTA.
    • > Imagine computer cases that dont bend and break. Ever.

      Horrible. How the fuck would you mod them?

      > Or very lightweight airplanes.
      >Imagine taller skyscrapers.

      There's a very sick joke in there about what happens when an irresistable force meets an immovable object, and I'm going straight to hell for even hinting at it.

    • Get real. This is Slashdot. Watch us imagine a Beowulf cluster of the stuff. :)
    • And imagine the price of that bicycle! Oh boy it would be stolen in seconds; with a saw which has super hard teeth.
    • Yes, that is indeed excellent. If humanity has one problem, it certainly is HOW DO WE KEEP THE CRAP WE MAKE FROM EVER GOING AWAY.
    • Imagine taller skyscrapers.

      Current limitations on skyscraper heights are economic, not structural. Heights of several miles could be reached with current construction technology.

      - nic
  • AT LAST! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @04:22PM (#7284023)
    I now have a response to all those people who called me a pencil-dick!
  • I heard that in certain Eastern European countries, diamonds were mightier than pencil lead.
  • Pencil Lead (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    <pendatic>Pencil lead isn't lead or graphite. It's (usually) a mixture of graphite and clay. So pencil lead wouldn't work in this process.</pendatic>
  • Cool!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by chriso11 (254041) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @05:05PM (#7284490) Journal
    Now I can get some mechanical pencil lead that won't break all the time. Or even smudge!

    • ...Interestingly enough, most people want thier pencil to smudge (onto the paper). Have fun writing with your harder than diamond pencil buddy.
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @05:14PM (#7284583) Homepage
    The article tells very little about the strength of the compressed graphite crystals.

    Are they just "hard", and able to pass any scratch test thrown at them, or are they "strong", and able to support heavy loads(such as a space elevator!?).

    Either way, the manufacturing process being used is only able to produce small samples, and is very similar to the process used to create artificial diamonds (from the text of the article, it appears that the process is the same, but with a few steps added in)

    Diamonds may be hard, but have very little 'real' use, and aren't exactly strong. We have already proven our ability to (at great expense) manufacture synthetic diamonds, but have yet to find many useful applications for them (other than sawblades, etc...). In addition, it is very difficult (physically impossible) to make them into useful shapes without cutting them into very small pieces and using a bonding agent due to their crystaline structure.

    Either way, this should prove to be interesting. I could definitely see this replacing diamonds in industrial applications. In addition, the graphite which forms these new crystals is much harder AND much stronger than the coal used to form diamonds. I wonder if the new substance is thermally conductive....... it certianly could be!
    • I beg to differ, the original story pointed to by this slashdot [slashdot.org] artical tells of a couple of fairly (relative) cheap means of mass producing diamonds as well as giving them just about any shape possible, from one of the methods. Thus giving us almost unlimited possibilites for uses in computing and other applications.

      Maybe as the technology for growing diamonds becomes more precise and readily available, more usable quanities of this dense graphite material could be produced.
    • The only reason diamonds are not useful today is that they are expensive to produce (and limited, mostly artificially, in their availability) and expensive to reshape. If we could make much larger structures out of diamond cheaply, it would be quite useful, and used somewhat ubiquitously.
  • We could make H1000 pencils that would write on *anything*. All we need now is for someone to create an eraser to match :-)
  • Viagra the little Graphite diamond? Diamonds for her and grahpite for him.
  • by JohnPM (163131) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @06:18PM (#7285163) Homepage
    Upon first glance at that story one could point out a handful of blatantly false statements that the 'journalist' had embellished upon the presumed press release. To start with, the caption on the bizzare first image ignored atomic carbon (carbon black), nanotubes and the veritable zoo of non-C60 fullerenes.

    Secondly the x-rays were not used to form the substance, but to analyse its structure. Hardness is not measured by an ability to crack, it's an ability to scratch. I could crack a diamond with a metal hammer, it doesn't make it harder.

    The experimenter neatly summarises the novelty with "This experiment is the first to determine quantitatively how the bonding in graphite changes under high-pressure conditions.". But the article completely ignores what this new bonding is. These are not difficult diagrams. Diamond and graphite are simple to draw, where's the new one?

    The summaries in the other stories crowding this one on the page are equally laughable. Anyone can see in the diagram of C60 that it doesn't have 60 sides. In fact if anyone can understand any of the images on the page then you're doing pretty well.

    Finally, you've got to love this gem at the bottom:
    "AD SPACE FOR SALE
    THIS POSITION $4,000/YEAR
    FOR 200x60 PIXEL BANNER
    More Ad Rates".

    Walk, don't run kids!
    • by siskbc (598067) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @06:51PM (#7285437) Homepage
      Upon first glance at that story one could point out a handful of blatantly false statements that the 'journalist' had embellished upon the presumed press release. To start with, the caption on the bizzare first image ignored atomic carbon (carbon black), nanotubes and the veritable zoo of non-C60 fullerenes.

      Yeah, that aggravated me too. Actually, even chemists consider buckys to be a third allotrope as carbon. As a chemist, I consider it bullshit for the same reason you mention. For what it's worth, Carbon-black is not pure carbon - it's a misture of large polynuclear hydrocarbons. It's graphite-like, but does contain hydrogen.

      These are not difficult diagrams. Diamond and graphite are simple to draw, where's the new one?

      I was annoyed by the same - fortunately, my school has a subscription to Science. Graphite, of course, is a planar, sp2 hybridized structure that forms layers of sheets. The sheets are staggered by half a ring, so that half of the carbons are centered over another carbon, and half are centered over the middle of a ring. Under high enough pressure, the carbons that are right over each other form a sigma bond. According to the article, this happens gradually over a range of like 10-20 GPa, with theoretically half the carbons ultimately forming interplane sigma bonds if one considered a two-plane system.

      Unfortunately, even the Science article was stingy on the details (as they tend to be).

      • Cool, thanks for the info.
      • The article at spacedaily.com did not mention if the substance maintained its "superhard" form after the pressure was released. I got the impression that it was hard while under pressure, but would revert (slowly, quickly?) after the pressure is released.

        Did the Science article shed any light on this? Does it maintain its hardness? If not, what's the decay rate? Is it directly tied to the release of pressure, etc.?
      • Yup, as soon as I read the first line of this article I felt my gorge rising - bad science reporting AGAIN.

        My understanding from school chemistry was that the c-c sp2 bonds in graphite were stronger than the c-c sp3 bonds in diamond (well shorter at least). The difference in hardness is due to the fact that the c-c sp2 bonds in graphite are only in one plane, and the sheets of carbon atoms are only losely bonded together. The reason why diamind is so much harder is that the tetrahedral arrangement of the s
        • My understanding from school chemistry was that the c-c sp2 bonds in graphite were stronger than the c-c sp3 bonds in diamond (well shorter at least). The difference in hardness is due to the fact that the c-c sp2 bonds in graphite are only in one plane, and the sheets of carbon atoms are only losely bonded together. The reason why diamind is so much harder is that the tetrahedral arrangement of the sp3 bonds means that diamond is very hard in all directions whereas forces applied to graphite simply cause t
    • The picture is actually correct, for the C-60. The C-60 bucky ball IS shaped like a soccerball. It doesn't have 60 sides. It has 60 carbon atoms. The soccerball (a truncated icosahedron) has 12 pentagons on it whose vertices accounts for all the vertices of the solid.

      W
    • "Hardness is not measured by an ability to crack, it's an ability to scratch. I could crack a diamond with a metal hammer, it doesn't make it harder"

      Absolutely right! In fact here's a common hardness scale for minerals:
      1. Talc
      2. Gypsum
      3. Calcite
      4. Flourite
      5. Apatite
      6. Orthoclase
      7. Quartz
      8. Topaz
      9. Corrundum
      10. Diamond

      For comparison:
      Finger Nail is 2.5
      Steel knife is 5.5
      Glass is just less than 6

      Glass is harder than steel, but I sure wouldn't want to build a car out of it. Diamonds are very hard, but they are very brit

    • The experimenter neatly summarises the novelty with "This experiment is the first to determine quantitatively how the bonding in graphite changes under high-pressure conditions.". But the article completely ignores what this new bonding is. These are not difficult diagrams. Diamond and graphite are simple to draw, where's the new one?

      My thoughts exactly. Having done some structural analysis for amorphous carbon myself I can't help but think that that's what they have there, i.e. amorphous carbon of some d
  • And if it is, can I make it into armor for my tank?

  • A substance thats harder then diamond and even more useless.
    So now my pencils will break even faster. (harder usually equals more brittle not less).

    Ahh I remember my youth, when I took a diamond earring and put it under my desk leg at school, sat down and presto, diamond dust.

    Weird things you think of when the fever gets going.
  • Why is it labeled "nano-tech"?

    Cracking diamond is no big deal. Does it scratch it too?

    Dorks. A hard form of graphite will not be used as a structural component.

    No mention of hardness measurements (Mohs, Rockwell, Knoop).

    Sorry for the rant, bad science reporting irks me.

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