Glassy Carbon as Strong as Diamonds
Rough diamonds from Botswana. Photo: National Geographic.
Diamond is known to be the world’s hardest natural material, but this crystalline form of carbon has one drawback. As an anisotropic material, diamond is not equally strong in all directions. Based on this limitation, scientists synthesized a material in the 1950s called “glassy carbon,” which exhibited significant strength without the limitations of this directionality.
Recently, a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution of Science revisited this glassy carbon model, making a new form of the material under 400,000 times normal atmospheric pressure. The new carbon allotrope is just as strong as diamond, with the added benefit of an amorphous structure that can counteract forces from all directions.
According to Russell Hemley, director of the Geophysical Laboratory at Carnegie, “These findings open up possibilities for potential applications, including super hard anvils for high-pressure research and could lead to new classes of ultradense and strong materials.”