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Science Technology

New Material Harder Than Diamond 450

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the thats-one-gem-thats-hard-to-imagine dept.
h4x0r-3l337 writes "Diamond is no longer the hardest substance known to man. Scientists have created a new material, called "aggregated diamond nanorods" by compressing carbon-60 under high heat. From the article: 'The hardness of a material is measured by its isothermal bulk modulus. Aggregated diamond nanorods have a modulus of 491 gigapascals (GPa), compared with 442 GPa for conventional diamond.'"
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New Material Harder Than Diamond

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  • I want... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:34AM (#13433583)
    A butter knife made entirely out of THAT!
  • Ring (Score:5, Funny)

    by CalcMan (179244) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:35AM (#13433590) Homepage Journal
    So I guess this is what she's going to want on her finger now.
  • Forgive my ignorance after Reading TFA... but this "harder than diamond" material is... made of diamonds! Seems like false advertising, though I get what they did.
    • by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:38AM (#13433610)
      I guess it should be better defined. It is talking about two different diamond states. 1) There is the natural, mined diamond you get from the Earth. 2) This artificial, human-created diamond-type substance that is made from diamond. In essense they are both just really hard carbon structures, with different atomic states.
      • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp&freeshell,org> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @09:45AM (#13435326) Homepage Journal
        Yes.

        Clearly, they are the same.

        I often try to pick up girls by handing them large chunks of coal since it's a diamond, but in a different state. For some reason, they don't seem to go for it. Odd.

        Strangely enough, no one will eat my burgers cooked over graphite (and quite frankly, graphite fires are a bit difficult to keep lit).

        Carbon is one of the most versitile elements on the planet either alone or combined with other elements. Its quite worthwhile to consider a different state of it a completely different thing.
    • Coal and graphite are also made from diamond material, carbon. It's the final structure that counts, and it isn't structured like a diamond, or it would have the hardness of one.
    • by superyanthrax (835242) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:12AM (#13433730)
      It is made by compressing buckyballs (C_60), which consist of carbon, just like Diamond. For the record charcoal and graphite are forms of carbon too. All of these things are just carbon atoms arranged in different ways. The name of the substance has the word "diamond" in it b/c it is similar to diamond, but it is not the same as diamond.
    • by Deitheres (98368) <brutalentropy@gm ... com minus author> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:14AM (#13433739)
      I guess a pretty simple way to put it would be like this:

      butter and ice cream are both essentially different forms of milk, but you don't see people walking around with cones full of butter do you?

      If you do, that's pretty gross.
  • Does that mean.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by postgrep (803732)
    Diamonds will come down in price? If we could make a drill out of this new material, doesn't that mean we would have a surplus of diamond to use? And who gets the dub the name for this material?
    • by kavachameleon (637997) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:37AM (#13433604)
      Supply and demand has nothing to do with the diamond market. As I understand it, the prices are kept artificially high by the diamond cartels and their storehouses of stones.
    • by ciroknight (601098) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:42AM (#13433633)
      Um, no. Diamonds currently retain value as expensive the same way Oil does. It's controlled by a company who's got overwhelming control over the supply, and thus, can charge any price they want for the goods.

      That being said, synthetic diamonds have been on the market for a while now. In fact, my sister just bought a ring with one in it.
      • by abb3w (696381) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @01:11PM (#13437459) Journal
        Diamonds currently retain value as expensive the same way Oil does.

        A gross distortion — about oil. You are basically right about diamonds. While he may overhype matters somewhat, Epstein's classic book [edwardjayepstein.com] documents how the diamond cartel has been ruthless in its limit of supply to a value-sustaining level of marketing-created demand. If supply were to float free, diamonds would drop sharply in price. Furthermore, their intrinsic value within the economy isn't that high-- industrial use mainly. If the US government banned the sale of diamonds for non-industrial uses, DeBeers (and a chunk of the jewelry industry) would collapse, but the overall economy would be OK. Banning the industrial uses would hurt more, and probably trigger a recession, but not a total economic collapse.

        Oil, on the other hand, has many uses -- fuel, plastics, fertilizers, and chemical feedstocks probably heading the list. Furthermore, in economic terms, there are NO elasticly substitutable replacements for it, and an exponentially growing demand as China and India become fully industrialized. Since conventional biodiesel relies on petroleum fertilizers and machinery, the "best" elastic replacement is sythetic petroleum from coal, probably becoming competitive in the $120/bbl to $200/bbl range. In the good (?!?) news, this means base (untaxed) gas prices can't do much more than triple from current levels, so we shouldn't go over $10/gallon for gasoline for about 30 years after peak oil (given the vast US coal reserves). The bad news is that the ecologic impacts are higher... which might require higher gas taxes to deal with the impact.

        In addition, OPEC (and other cartel) quotas are not the primary limit on supply at this point — although they may be getting rich off it for the moment. Supply today is mainly limited the finite known reserves (with new discoveries having peaked pre-1970), and by current production rate limits (which is why a hurricane in the Gulf caused a price spike of oil to over $70/bbl). OPEC is pretty much pumping as hard as it can now.

        Diamond prices are indeed deeply controlled by deliberate supply controls, and there have been times when oil prices were influenced that way, but right now, the price of oil is pure unrestricted supply and demand... where supply is running out.

        (Why, yes, I am one of those "Peak Oil" kooks. Pleased ta meetcha.)

    • Don't they use already the "waste diamond" which or is discarted diamond after sculpturing it [wikipedia.org] (of which I thought 60% decrease of original size of the diamond after sculpturing it) or diamond which hasn't the purity for jewelry yet is good enough for industrial applications?

      Synthetic diamonds [wikipedia.org] could bring down the value though.

    • Re:Does that mean.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:01AM (#13433699)

      If we could make a drill out of this new material, doesn't that mean we would have a surplus of diamond to use?

      No. Synthetic diamonds were developed by GE in the 50s. Most (if not all) of the diamond in diamond coated drills are produced through this process. The process developed in the 50s only produces what's called "industrial diamonds" and are nowhere near gem quality.

      So any new harder substance would only effect the industrial diamond market, and have no effect on the gem quality diamond market.
      • Re:Does that mean.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by bmo (77928) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:21AM (#13433769)
        "Most (if not all) of the diamond in diamond coated drills are produced through this process"

        You were OK, sortof. It's not the GE process, but something entirely new (relatively).

        Diamond coatings are done through a process called Vapor Deposition. It's a low pressure process, done at Standard Pressure, using a hot carbon rich gas, a reducing atmosphere, and a cold substrate (the thing you're coating).

        It's an entirely new process, discovered entirely by accident by someone trying to figure out why certain welds were a bitch to grind smooth. It turned out that there were microscopic diamonds in the welds, and that was why.

        --
        BMO
      • by EtherAlchemist (789180) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:42AM (#13433823)

        Most (if not all) of the diamond in diamond coated drills are produced through this process.

        There are several processes for putting diamond onto the lap/saw/drill. Some diamonds (natural or synthetic) are brazed onto the material, many saws and diamond wheels actually have diamond impregnated metal so as it wears, cutting action is not degraded and the cheapest method is really close to gluing the damn things to the material. In this instance, it is almost always synthetic. In gem faceting, diamond powder is actually sprinkled onto a lap and rolled into it or used as a slurry.

        But as far as "most" goes, "most" diamond tools are not diamond at all but silicon carbide. And even then, it depends on the application for the lap, drill or saw. Depending on the material you are cutting or polishing, natural diamond is preferred to synthetic. This is the case when polishing diamonds and sapphires.

        Also, there are a number of "fake" diamonds in the market already, none of which have had any impact on the diamond as a gem. The most common are CZ (cubic zirconia) and Moissanite which is a compressed carbon, also known as silicon carbide, and naturally occurring in meteorites but made for the market in labs. Other "brands" of fake diamonds are usually Moissanite. In diamond testing, cz fails thermal tests, Moissanite passes but fails on conductivity.

    • And who gets the dub the name for this material?

      I want to know who will get the dupe of this article. If recent /. history is a prediction, It should be here in the next 2 days.

  • Article Text (Score:4, Informative)

    by CalcMan (179244) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:37AM (#13433603) Homepage Journal
    Diamonds are not forever
    26 August 2005

    Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, which is known as aggregated diamond nanorods, is expected to have many industrial applications (App. Phys. Lett. 87 083106).

    The hardness of a material is measured by its isothermal bulk modulus. Aggregated diamond nanorods have a modulus of 491 gigapascals (GPa), compared with 442 GPa for conventional diamond. Dubrovinskaia and two of her co-workers - Leonid Dubrovinky and Falko Langenhorst - have patented the process used to make the new material.

    Diamond derives its hardness from the fact that each carbon atom is connected to four other atoms by strong covalent bonds. The new material is different in that it is made of tiny interlocking diamond rods. Each rod is a crystal that has a diameter of between 5 and 20 nanometres and a length of about 1 micron.

    The group created the ADNRs by compressing the carbon-60 molecules to 20 GPa, which is nearly 200 times atmospheric pressure, while simultaneously heating to 2500 Kelvin. "The synthesis was possible due to a unique 5000-tonne multianvil press at Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth that is capable of reaching pressures of 25 GPa and temperatures of 2700 K at the same time," Dubrovinskaia told PhysicsWeb.

    The Bayreuth team measured the properties of the samples with a diamond anvil cell at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility at Grenoble in France. These measurements indicated that ADNRs are about 0.3% denser than diamond, and that the new material has the lowest compressibility of any known material.

    In addition to working out why the new material is so hard, the Bayreuth team also hope to exploit its industrial potential. "We have developed a concept for innovative technology to produce the novel material in industrial-scale quantities and now we are looking for partners in order to realize our ideas," said Dubrovinskaia.
  • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:38AM (#13433608)
    So when are we going to see a General Products hull constructed out of this?

    --
    BMO - Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of Kzinti
  • Borazon (Score:5, Informative)

    by pato101 (851725) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:38AM (#13433614) Journal
    Long time ago, when I was student, I bought a very good russian thermodynamics book (Kirillin) where they said Borazon [wikipedia.org] synthetic material be harder than diamond. It is a pity Wikipedia does not agree with that fact.
    Of course, the thermodynamic process to achieve it was far expensive. Required very high pressure and temperatures.
  • Possible uses? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by allanj (151784) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:39AM (#13433619)
    OK, so obviously this could be used as "better-than-diamonds" for industrial purposes - grinding and such. But it seems to me that the improvement is only modest, and that this does not open up whole new frontiers of exciting materials - or am I completely wrong here? Is there some magical "limit" that was exceeded by this? If there *IS* a magical limit somewhere, what is it?
    • Re:Possible uses? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bmo (77928) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:58AM (#13433686)
      "OK, so obviously this could be used as "better-than-diamonds" for industrial purposes - grinding and such. But it seems to me that the improvement is only modest"

      Uhm, don't underestimate the profit-increasing abilities of new materials.

      Borazon, for example, is a synthetic material that is used in abrasives and cutting tools. The value isn't in the material itself, but in what one can do with it.

      If it's about as expensive as synthetic diamond (an oxymoron - synthetic diamond is just as real as "real" diamonds) or borazon, expect this to wind up in concrete saws, grinding wheels, end mills, drills (masonry, metal, oil industry) and a whole zoo of tools.

      It's not a "modest improvement". It's a technological leap comparable to synthesizing diamonds and superabrasives, which revolutionized a lot of industries.

      --
      BMO
    • Re:Possible uses? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jericho4.0 (565125) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:11AM (#13433726)
      Maybe it's not a given that it would be good at the common industrial uses of diamonds. As it's formed from evenly sized tubes of carbon atoms, it might not Carry a strong, sharp edge, and that it might have a grain. I imagine the structure is pretty squished though, just like diamond, only with fewer flaws.

      In some googling on this, I've become confused. "ultrahard fullerene" [google.ca] is C-60 buckyballs compressed at high temperature also. I see many different values quoted for UHF hardness and diamond. This Russian paper [aip.org] gives a value of 1 TPa in 1988!

  • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:45AM (#13433644) Homepage
    Is this what the viagra ads meant when they said 20% harder?

    Enhance your carbon based member now! EXRNZ

    Impressive results, you'll be the hardest she's ever seen! Become the new hard you.

    --

    You cant talk about anything around here without someone thinking about it sexually
  • When do they start selling sandpaper with this stuff so I can ruin all my rich friends' wives rings and laugh at them? They totally deserve it for spending $300 on a ring in the first place. Stupid jerks.
  • by hopethisnickisnottak (882127) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:47AM (#13433647) Homepage Journal
    It is, after all, a measure of strength in compression, which is completely different from hardness.

    How about giving us figures for hardness? Like the Brinell Hardness Number or the results of the Rockwell hardness test?
    • by TenderMuffin (319798) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:20AM (#13433760)
      To be honest, I'm not sure those tests would work...

      The hardest scale on the Rockwell test (I'll let someone else give a link somewhere) uses a diamond to make an indent. This works for pretty much everything since diamond is the hardest material.

      Until now, at least. Since diamond isn't harder than this, it wouldn't make an indent. No indent, no Rockwell reading.
  • Hmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by aarku (151823) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:49AM (#13433656) Journal
    Anyone else having the sudden urge to get their fiancée one of these bad boys so they can scratch the hell out of lesser gemstones?
  • by hopethisnickisnottak (882127) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @02:56AM (#13433678) Homepage Journal
    For a good description of Hardness measuring methods, See this page [216.109.125.130]
  • Get me a plenctor from this material.. I'll pick my guitar and play the hardest rock mankind ever heard..
  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:07AM (#13433714)
    There's no way these guys can claim priority here. It completely stretches all notions of credulity. I mean, Superman has been transforming coal into diamonds with his bare hands for nearly 60 years now (first mention Action Comics #115; 1947). Together with his optical super-powers, in this case I'm of course referring to what is simplistically referred to as his "heat vision", it's clear that Superman could generate the required pressure and heat with almost no effort. He probably discovered this new diamond stuff by accident when he was like 8 or something. Jeez, I can't believe the crap that makes it through peer review these days.
  • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:07AM (#13433715) Journal
    We're (laregly) made of carbon. Diamonds, the (formerly) hardest substance known to exist, is made of carbon. This new material is also made of carbon.

    Carbon is also the basis for buckyballs, nanotubes, and recently, nanofabric.

    What is it about carbon that's so special? Can these things be done with other elements, like nitrogen? Is it just because we have an oil (carbon) based economy, or what?

    Seems like all the interesting stuff in materials physics in early 2000's is ALL CARBON!
    • by MAdMaxOr (834679) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:30AM (#13433800)
      From Wikipedia: "[Carbon] also has the interesting chemical property of being able to bond with itself and a wide variety of other elements, forming nearly 10 million known compounds."

      Not only is it able to chain, and thereby make organic compounds, DNA, nanofiber, but the bonds it forms can be very weak or strong. So yeah, carbon has unique chemical properties, its cheap, and (too) widely available.

      As a side question, who thinks that as all of the advanced carbon materials become readily available over the next 50 years, and demand increases, that we may have found our solution to global warming? We'll scrub CO2 from the atmosphere to build our carbon products!
      • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @10:17AM (#13435593)

        As a side question, who thinks that as all of the advanced carbon materials become readily available over the next 50 years, and demand increases, that we may have found our solution to global warming? We'll scrub CO2 from the atmosphere to build our carbon products!
        We've been doing that for years. It's called "carpentry" and it uses these cool bio-tech machines called "trees" to convert atomospheric carbon and water into complex hydrocarbon structures known as "wood".

        You have to have a source of trace minerals (typically through a "ground" or "earth" connection) but the majority of the created structures are built from atmospheric carbon and hydrogen from water. The created material is incredibly useful and can be formed with little effort using commonly available tools.

        Oh, and the best part is, the process is entirely solar-powered. There's a little reverse carbon leakage when solar energy is not available (a condition we call "night") but it's negligible.

        Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
    • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever.nerdshack@com> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @03:53AM (#13433850)
      Carbon is the most electronegative element with a valence of 4. Electronegativity increases on the periodic table going right and up, and it is a measure of how strongly an atom holds onto electrons. This means that carbon can form four extremely strong atomic bonds with other carbon atoms. Because the bonds are strong, they will make a structure extremely hard if the bonds are arranged into inflexible shapes. Repeating triangles make diamond. Hexagons and Pentagons folding back on each other make buckminsterfullerene (buckyballs). Hexagons rolled into cylinders make nanotubes. The fact that it can make 4 bonds allows all these repeating shapes (polymers) to come about.

      Carbon is the only element that has these properties (valence 4, high electronegativity) that allow it to form the structures it does. Under extreme pressure and temperature, it's believed that silicon could be coaxed into some kind of polymerization. I remember reading once that a research group managed to polymerize pure nitrogen under megabars of pressure and thousands of degrees F. The result had 3 times the energy density of TNT, and violently decomposed when the pressure was let off - can anyone elaborate or corroborate?

      Anyway, hope this helps!
      • by Wills (242929) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @11:36AM (#13436422)
        Diamond, graphite and fullerenes are actually allotropes [wikipedia.org], not polymers. Allotropes are different physical forms of the same element. Polymers [wikipedia.org] are large molecules built from long chains of connected monomers -- repeating small groups of atoms. An allotrope by definition always has atoms of one element only, whereas polymers can have atoms of several different elements.
  • Naming (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shut_up_man (450725)
    Aggregated diamond nanorods is a bit of a mouthful... shall we call it Adinar? Agdian? Xena? Buffy?
  • This can't possibly be harder than adamantium. Otherwise Captain America would have used it instead for his shield.
  • Trivia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Palal (836081)
    Artificial diamonds were first developed in Kiev, Ukraine at the University for Superhard Materials. Later, there were plans to make them into armor (armored cars, armored vests, etc.).
  • I though Jack Thompsons' head was the hardest material.
  • Oh Moh!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by craznar (710808)
    The old scale is broken.

  • "God was very moving and erotic *snort*"

    "How erotic?"

    "I was at 420 gigapascals!"
  • Error in article? (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever.nerdshack@com> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:03AM (#13433870)
    The group created the ADNRs by compressing the carbon-60 molecules to 20 GPa, which is nearly 200 times atmospheric pressure...
    Unless I'm very much mistaken, atmospheric pressure is ~101.3 kilopascals, which makes this more like 200 thousand times atmospheric pressure. I'm a little suprised that slipped by the editors of a site called 'physicsweb.org'...
  • One Use (Score:5, Funny)

    by CleverNickedName (644160) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:31AM (#13433924) Journal
    Finally, I'll be able to drill into that 10ft diamond I found in the garden.

    I'm sure there's gold in the center of it!
  • by RealErmine (621439) <commerce@ w o r d h o le.net> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @07:21AM (#13434515)
    This one goes to 11?

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