The diamond’s position as the hardest known material isn’t forever apparently as scientists create a substance called Q-carbon.
We’re going to need a laser to make this diamond
Researchers at North Carolina University have developed a new physical process to apply to carbon in order to get a new substance that is even harder than a diamond. While diamonds will remain the hardest naturally occurring material in the world, Q-Carbon, as the researchers are calling it, beats the diamond in hardness tests.
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“In 15 minutes, we can make a carat of diamonds,” says Jay Narayan, the lead scientist on the study.
Synthetic gemstones is hardly the aim of the group. Narayan believes that there will be a number of uses for Q-carbon especially in medicine and industry as the end product is magnetic, fluorescent and electroconductive.
The new diamond technique
A very short pulse of laser light onto carbon produces tiny synthetic diamond seeds which can later be made into jewels of different sizes. While the teams ability to produce a carat (200 milligrams) in 15 minutes is not the most efficient means by which to industrially manufacturer a diamond, their work is being achieved at room temperature and air pressure unlike other techniques including chemical vapor deposition.
The creation of Q-carbon is quite easy as the group explained on Monday in the Journal of Applied Physics. A small laser is targeted on a piece of amorphous carbon for about 200 nanoseconds which makes the carbon very hot, very quickly. When this super-heated spot cools in a process called quenching, Q-carbon is created.
Wuyi Wang, an expert on diamond geochemistry and the director of research and development at the Gemological Institute of America, is both excited and skeptical to a point. While he called the journal “quite credible” and maintains that he “pretty much trusts what they say,” he would still like to confirm the findings himself before getting to excited.
“if they are true, it will be very exciting news for the diamond research community,” said Wang regarding the paper.
André Anders, the editor in chief of the Journal of Applied Physics understands Wang’s skepticism saying, “This is one of those ‘wow’ papers.”
“I put a sticky note on the manuscript that said ‘pay attention to this one’ before the peer review even happened. But the second thought I have, and this is the scientist in me, is that I’m always skeptical,” he added.