Stanford’s scientists have discovered a new form of carbon capable of enduring pressures that only diamond was previously known to withstand.
Forms of carbon are called allotropes and include the most commonly used diamond and graphite. The newly formed carbon allotrope was created by compressing allotrope glassy carbon to atmospheric pressure 400,000 times above normal.
The new carbon form withstood atmospheric pressure 1.3 million times above normal, which no substance other than diamond has been observed to endure, according to a report by Science Daily that says the discovery is due to be published in Physical Review Letters.
Diamond is the hardest known natural material but according to scientists who formed the new allotrope, the carbon form’s resistance to pressure indicates that it is as strong and sturdy as a diamond.
Unlike diamond, which has a crystalline structure, the new allotrope is said to be an amorphous material. This could mean the new allotrope may lack the optical properties that make diamond the most popular gemstone.
However, the allotrope will have an advantage over the diamond, if its hardness is found to be equally strong in all directions, researchers explained.
“Diamond’s hardness is highly dependent upon the direction in which the crystal is oriented. The findings open up possibilities for potential applications and could lead to new classes of ultradense and strong materials, Russell Hemley, director of Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, was quoted as saying by Science Daily.