August 17, 2021

New Glass Shatters Previous Hardness Standards

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they may soon take second place as the hardest substance on the planet, if Chinese scientists have a say in the matter.

A team of researchers from Yashan University in Qinhuangdao, Hebei, have recently arranged glass atoms in such an efficient manner that their creation – a form of carbon titled “AM-III” – was able to leave a deep cut in a diamond, long considered the benchmark for hardness.

They achieved this by compressing fullerene, a football-like carbon structure with 60 connections, in an experimental heat and pressure chamber, until the arrangement collapsed and created an apparently non-crystalline – or amorphous – material, hence the “AM” in the name.

The yellow-tinted substance is more like glass (with crystals inside) than a diamond, and measured 113 gigapascals, a unit of measure that quantifies pressure and tensile strength. A typical diamond measures 100 gigapascals, sometimes more.

Professor Tian Yongjun and colleagues released a study paper on Thursday, 5 August, describing AM-III as “ultrahard, ultrastrong”, and offering “semi-conducting” properties.

This means it could provide a wide range of mechanical and electrical applications. Examples include creating bullet-proof glass, plating in body armor, and crack-proof cell,phone screens among other high-tech uses.