Last month us heard about a brand brand-new solid type of carbon, separate to the graphite and also diamond creates that we already know therefore well. Dubbed Q-Carbon because of the method that it is produced (carbon is heated very quickly to high temperature through a laser pulse, prior to being easily cooled, in a process known together quenching), this new material is stronger than diamond, however exactly how?

The strength reported in this case is the mechanically hardness that the material, which can be measure in 3 ways. Indentation hardness is generallymeasured simply by poking a sharp tip into a material with a pre-determined compressive force. The width and depth of the indentation left behind as soon as the guideline is removed is measured, and also gives one indication of just how resistant the product is to plastic deformation. A high resistance (and therefore tiny indentation) is accomplished by strong materials. Scrape hardness is a measure of how resistive a product is come fracture or irreversible scratching that the surface. Rebound hardness actions the bounce height of a diamond-tipped hammer native the surface ar of the product being measured.

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Diamonds on display screen in a window of Tiffany & Co., brand-new York (Photo credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg... <+> News)


As it stands, diamond itself performs incredibly well in every one of these tests, proving itself to be an incredibly hard material. This is all down to exactly how the carbon atoms are arranged in diamond, especially when compared to an extremely soft graphite, regardless of the building blocks the these products being identical. The carbon atoms in graphite space each covalently external inspection to three various other carbon atoms. In covalent bonding, atoms space sharing electrons in a bond rather than merely accepting or providing away one of these charged sub-atomic particles. This share of electrons and overlapping of electronic orbitals makes covalent bonds very strong. If graphite has these bonds, why is it together a soft product then? Well, as these bonds space made of negatively fee particles, they repel each other. They want to it is in as far apart from each other as possible. If you try and arrange 3 things roughly one main item, you will view that the best configuration is because that the three points to form a triangle in one plane, and also this is specifically what these carbon bonds do in graphite. This triangular structures join up v one one more to kind flat sheets of hexagons. The weakness originates from the very weak forces of attraction in between these sheets, called Van der Waals bonds. As no electron are shared in this bonds, the graphite sheets can quickly slide past one another, giving rise come a very soft material.


layers of soft graphite can conveniently be deposited onto paper (Photo credit: "Bleistift1" Licensed... <+> under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)


What makes diamond so solid then? Well, carbon atoms room not working to their full sharing potential in graphite. They can buddy up one more time, developing covalent bond with 4 other carbon atoms. The same rules apply in the these bond are driving away one another, so now shot and arrange four things roughly one main item. In order because that these to be as much apart from one an additional as possible, we need to leave the flat plane of graphite and start reasoning in a three dimensional manner. The four items have the right to be arranged through equal and maximum distance from one another if they embrace the positions of the corners the a triangle based pyramid, or a tetrahedron. In diamond, carbon atoms type four solid covalent bond with various other carbon atoms. This tetrahedra sign up with up to type a big three dimensional lattice structure. There space no weak bond in this structure, so the takes a lot much more energy to rest this material, providing rise to the high stamin of diamond.


The plan of carbon atoms in diamond, left, and graphite, ideal (Photo credit: taken from... <+> "Eight allotrope of Carbon" Michael Ströck - created by Michael Ströck. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)


If you to be to pit these two allotrope of carbon versus one an additional in a boxing ring, you would certainly think that graphite is very much the underdog in this stamin test, but it does host a an enig – and also one the you may have actually noticed ns am rather a fan of. If girlfriend separate simply one of these graphite layers, friend will notification that it screens incredible strength as a material in its own right. The ‘spare’ unbonded electron from each carbon atom is complimentary to roam roughly the covalently external inspection atoms, which actually stabilises every layer. This wonder material is graphene.

So wherein does Q-Carbon right in every one of this? It has actually been reported the it is a lot more powerful than diamond, therefore what does its molecular structure look like? It has actually been reported by the researchers behind this discovery that the material has a combination of both the species of bonds it was observed in graphite and also diamond, in a roughly 1:3 ratio of sp2:sp3 hybridisation (the name for the bonds formed by overlapping orbitals in graphite and diamond respectively).

While there is quiet a lot come discover around Q-Carbon, the reality that it now gives scientists a quick, cheap and efficient path to do diamond microstructures method that it will provide rise to more investigation into every one of these incredibly varied allotropes the the humble carbon atom, and also I am certain a entirety host of brand-new applications of these products alongside it.

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The world about us is make of ‘stuff.’ native a an extremely early age, I have been fascinated by this stuff, regularly breaking things apart to shot and figure out how everything

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The world roughly us is do of ‘stuff.’ indigenous a really early age, I have been fascinated by this stuff, regularly breaking things apart to try and figure out how everything worked. Luckily science has permitted me to rotate this devastating curiosity right into a career, very first through a BSc in Chemistry, then an MSc in analysis Chemistry and also finally a doctor in materials Chemistry at university College London in 2012. Fulfilling my destiny as an eternal student, ns have due to the fact that studied for a PGCE in senior School Science, and an MEd in college Learning and also Teaching. After 6 years lecturing in the room of materials at imperial College London and at the college of Surrey"s chemistry and procedure Engineering Department, i am currently Head of publicly Engagement in ~ the modern technology company Digital Science. Return my research study area is practical nanomaterials, as a science communicator i am able come delve right into the more comprehensive applications that chemistry, physics and also materials science and engineering all approximately us, and love share this v live lectures, top top TV (Discovery Channel) and radio, and here v you.