Move over graphene, there’s a new wonder material in town

23 Nov 2015

We’ve long reported here at the regular improvements in the material known as graphene, but now it seems there’s a new material developed that will put its achievements to shame.

The new material that’s supposedly about to turn graphene into a has-been technology is the expensive-sounding diamond nanothread.

The discovery of the new material was announced just last month by researchers in the US as a substance made from carbon that forms as a diamond crystal capped with a hydrogen molecule that could have multiple applications.

According to MIT News, however, there have already been developments in the technology to take it from a basic concept to one that could actually be scientifically viable.

One of the first to step forward to the plate is a team from Queensland University of Technology in Australia led by Haifei Zhan, which has run large-scale molecular dynamics simulations on diamond nanothread and come to the conclusion that it could actually have more applications than previously thought.

Diamonds are a scientist’s best friend

The original issues that have challenged the idea that it could become a revolutionary material have been its molecular arrangement of benzene molecules into a single line, which, when placed under pressure, become incredibly brittle.

Having analysed this process, the Australian research team found this to be the case when arranged in a single line, but when configured into an arrangement known as Stone-Wales defects found it could actually be a lot stronger, at least in certain situations.

These defects, in effect, act as hinges, which allow the diamond nanothread to be expanded in length to become malleable once it passes a particular threshold.

It will now be up to future researchers to actually turn this simulation into a genuine concept experiment, but much progress has clearly been made in the space of just one month.

Having published the paper online, the team said of its potential applications: “Its highly tunable ductility together with its ultra-light density and high Young’s modulus makes diamond nanothread ideal for the creation of extremely strong three-dimensional nano-architectures.”

Coloured diamonds image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic