Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, which is known as aggregated diamond nanorods, is expected to have many industrial applications (App. Phys. Lett. 87 083106).
The hardness of a material is measured by its isothermal bulk modulus. Aggregated diamond nanorods have a modulus of 491 gigapascals (GPa), compared with 442 GPa for conventional diamond. Dubrovinskaia and two of her co-workers - Leonid Dubrovinky and Falko Langenhorst - have patented the process used to make the new material.
Diamond derives its hardness from the fact that each carbon atom is connected to four other atoms by strong covalent bonds. The new material is different in that it is made of tiny interlocking diamond rods. Each rod is a crystal that has a diameter of between 5 and 20 nanometres and a length of about 1 micron.
Materials Science and Engineering is a pretty unglamous field. We are seeing some amazing steps in a variety of areas though, and those advances will change our world dramatically.