Traditionally, diamond is considered to be the hardest material on earth. In fact, its name comes from the Greek word adamas, meaning “unbreakable”. But modern scientists have spent decades looking for a cheaper alternative. Now, they have finally found one.
A new material, called Q-carbon, is harder than diamond. It was created by researchers at North Carolina State University. They used a high-powered laser pulse to heat non-crystalline carbon and then quickly cool it. This process turned the carbon into micron-sized diamonds.
The new material is far stronger than a high-performance polythene. It is 500 times harder than steel, and weighs only 10 percent of water.
Another material is wurtzite boron nitride, which is 18 percent harder than diamond. This is a naturally occurring substance that is formed during volcanic eruptions. However, it is rare.
Other terrestrial materials that are not as hard as diamond include volcanic glass, graphite and lonsdaleite. Although these are much harder than diamond, they are not available for testing.
Scientists also haven’t been able to make large quantities of w-BN. Due to its rarity, it’s difficult to test and manufacture it.
Lonsdaleite, on the other hand, is a six-sided crystalline mineral, and it has been theorized that it could be 58 percent harder than cubic diamond. Historically, it has been formed in impact craters. Because of its hexagonal shape, it is easier to form a rigid cylindrical structure with it.
Researchers have also been investigating an ultrahard material that is based on boron. Boron nitride is a chemical compound composed of the fifth and seventh elements on the periodic table.