A team of researchers from the National University of Australia has managed to create a rare type of artificial diamonds that are harder than their natural counterparts. The new material is a type of lonsdaleite, a naturally occurring mineral found in some meteorite craters around the world.
A feature of lonsdaleite is a hexagonal crystal lattice, due to which the material becomes 60% harder than ordinary diamonds with a cube-shaped lattice.
This mineral was first discovered at the site of a meteorite in Devil's Canyon in 1967, and since then, scientists have repeatedly made attempts to recreate it in the laboratory. However, the standard technology required temperatures of the order of 1000 ° C, which made the process much more difficult.
Instead, researchers in Australia used what is called a "diamond anvil" - a device made up of two opposing diamonds. With its help, they were able to recreate the ultra-high pressure at which these minerals are formed deep in the earth's crust. At the same time, the process required a temperature of only 400 ° C, which radically simplifies the method and reduces the cost of the finished mineral (compare with 3700 ° C, which were used in the previous technology).
The most likely area of application for the new superhard diamonds will be the mining industry.