New ultra-hard diamond will not be coming to a jeweller near you

13 Dec 2016

The diamond anvil the scientists used to make the nano-sized Lonsdaleite. Image: Jamie Kidston/ANU

A new diamond – harder than a jeweller’s diamond – has been created in a lab using nanotechnology, with the aim of greatly advancing engineering and materials science research.

While diamonds are more familiar as a luxury item worn as jewellery, the dazzling, ancient compressed carbon has been artificially created for decades, for its ability to be both durable and an accomplished cutting tool.

Now, an international team of researchers led by the Australian National University has created what is a new type of artificial diamond that is considerably stronger than anything found in nature.

The nano-sized diamonds are replicas of Lonsdaleite, a hexagonal diamond that has so far only been found in nature in areas where violent meteorite impacts have occurred.

Because the diamond’s atoms are in this hexagonal shape, the team has said that it makes them much harder than regular diamonds, and because they have been replicated on a nanoscale, they will be even stronger still.

To actually make the Lonsdaleite diamond, the researchers placed it in a diamond anvil at 400 degrees Celsius, halving the temperature at which it can be formed in a laboratory.

“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,” said the research team’s leader, Prof Jodie Bradby.

“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.”

It has been suggested as particularly useful in the mining industry where diamond-tipped bores and drills are commonly used to break through the hardest of rock.

The team’s research has now been published in Scientific Reports.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic