New diamond harder than a jeweller's diamond, cuts through ultra-solid materials

December 12, 2016, Australian National University
Diamond in the anvil the scientists used to make the nano-sized Lonsdaleite. Credit: Jamie Kidston, ANU

The Australian National University (ANU) has led an international project to make a diamond that's predicted to be harder than a jeweller's diamond and useful for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites.

ANU Associate Professor Jodie Bradby said her team - including ANU PhD student Thomas Shiell and experts from RMIT, the University of Sydney and the United States - made nano-sized Lonsdaleite, which is a hexagonal diamond only found in nature at the site of meteorite impacts such as Canyon Diablo in the US.

"This new diamond is not going to be on any engagement rings. You'll more likely find it on a mining site - but I still think that diamonds are a scientist's best friend. Any time you need a super-hard material to cut something, this new diamond has the potential to do it more easily and more quickly," said Dr Bradby from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

Her research team made the Lonsdaleite in a diamond anvil at 400 degrees Celsius, halving the temperature at which it can be formed in a laboratory.

"The of this diamond's atoms makes it much harder than regular , which have a cubic structure. We've been able to make it at the nanoscale and this is exciting because often with these materials 'smaller is stronger'."

Credit: Australian National University

Lonsdaleite is named after the famous British pioneering female crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, who was the first woman elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society.

The research is published in Scientific Reports.

Co-researcher Professor Dougal McCulloch from RMIT said the collaboration of world-leading experts in the field was essential to the project's success. "The discovery of the nano-crystalline hexagonal diamond was only made possible by close collaborative ties between leading physicists from Australia and overseas, and the team utilised state-of-the-art instrumentation such as electron microscopes," he said.

Corresponding author from the University of Sydney, Professor David McKenzie, said he was doing the night shift in the United States laboratory as part of the research when he noticed a little shoulder on the side of a peak. "And it didn't mean all that much until we examined it later on in Melbourne and in Canberra - and we realised that it was something very, very different."

Associate Professor Jodie Bradby. Credit: Jamie Kidston, ANU
The diamond anvil the scientists used to make the nano-sized Lonsdaleite. Credit: Jamie Kidston, ANU

Explore further: Asteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds

More information: Thomas. B. Shiell et al. Nanocrystalline hexagonal diamond formed from glassy carbon, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep37232

Related Stories

Asteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds

November 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists have argued for half a century about the existence of a form of diamond called lonsdaleite, which is associated with impacts by meteorites and asteroids. A group of scientists based mostly at Arizona ...

New Israeli machine to standardize diamond grading

November 10, 2016

An Israeli high-tech company has invented a machine that it says can instantly grade the clarity of polished diamonds—a development the company said Thursday will bring new standards to a painstaking process that has long ...

Map of diamond-boron bond paves way for new materials

June 17, 2016

Scientists in Japan have successfully recorded the atomic bonds between diamond and cubic boron nitride: the hardest known materials on earth. This feat could ultimately lead to the design of new types of semiconductors.

Ultra-thin slices of diamonds reveal geological processes

June 21, 2016

Diamonds are not only beautiful and valuable gems, they also contain information of the geological history. By using ultra-thin slices of diamonds, Dorrit E. Jacob and her colleagues from the Macquarie University in Australia ...

Recommended for you

Researchers propose solutions for urine sample splash dilemma

November 19, 2018

Urinating into a cup may be a medical necessity for monitoring the health of the kidney and other issues, but it's often uncomfortable, embarrassing and messy—especially for women. But what if there were a way to comfortably ...

Swarmlike collective behavior in bicycling

November 19, 2018

Whether it's the acrobatics of a flock of starlings or the synchronized swimming of a school of fish, nature is full of examples of large-scale collective behavior. Humans also exhibit this behavior, most notably in pelotons, ...

Scientists explain how wombats drop cubed poop

November 18, 2018

Wombats, the chubby and beloved, short-legged marsupials native to Australia, are central to a biological mystery in the animal kingdom: How do they produce cube-shaped poop? Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical ...

Explaining a fastball's unexpected twist

November 18, 2018

An unexpected twist from a four-seam or a two-seam fastball can make the difference in a baseball team winning or losing the World Series. However, "some explanations regarding the different pitches are flat-out wrong," said ...

Helping Marvel superheroes to breathe

November 18, 2018

Marvel comics superheroes Ant-Man and the Wasp—nom de guerre stars of the eponymous 2018 film—possess the ability to temporarily shrink down to the size of insects, while retaining the mass and strength of their normal ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mark Thomas
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2016
Now all they have to do is to make a few billion of them for a viable product....


It is probably only a matter of time. BTW, this could come in handy on Mars where weight and durability are much bigger factors than cost.
Elmo_McGillicutty
Dec 12, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.