ACTON, Australia, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- How do you cut through a jeweler's diamond or other hard materials? How about a diamond?
Researchers in Australia discovered a rare diamond during lab experimentation -- a purer, smaller form of a diamond found at meteorites impact sites. Initial analysis suggests their creation is harder than a jeweler's diamond.
"This new diamond is not going to be on any engagement rings," Jodie Bradby, a professor at the Australian National University, said in a news release. "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."
Bradby and her colleagues successfully synthesized nano-sized lonsdaleite, a hexagonal diamond of glassy carbon, at 400 degrees Celsius, half the temperature scientists had previously thought was required.
"The hexagonal structure of this diamond's atoms makes it much harder than regular diamonds, which have a cubic structure," Bradby explained. "We've been able to make it at the nanoscale and this is exciting because often with these materials 'smaller is stronger.'"
Because lonsdaleite is found at meteorite impact sites, scientists assumed conditions replicating such strikes were necessary to make lonsdaleite. But the new research -- detailed in the journal Scientific Reports -- suggests "high purity lonsdaleite is readily formed under strain."
"We propose that the transformation is the result of intense radial plastic flow under compression in the diamond anvil cell, which lowers the energy barrier by 'locking in' favourable stackings of graphene sheets," scientists explained in their new paper.