Scientists have compressed diamond to create a harder material

Diamonds are among the hardest materials known to man, but experts believe they can be crushed into something harder.

Gemstone is a natural material composed of carbon crystals. It exists in the Earth, and research even suggests that “diamond fountains” could be sent to the surface as part of a major geological event.

While it was previously thought to be one of the hardest materials due to its tetrahedral lattice, an incredibly durable particle structure, experts have discovered a way to turn it into something even tougher.

Physicists from the United States and Sweden have created a simulation that is believed to be 30 percent more resistant to pressure than diamond.

Experts ran precise quantum molecular dynamics simulations on a supercomputer, in order to test how diamond behaves under high pressures and temperatures that should theoretically make it unstable.

Is there a way to make diamonds harder?iStock

Their findings revealed how details of the conditions under which carbon atoms in diamond can be pushed to create the unusual structure.

This configuration is known as the body-centered cubic phase of eight atoms (BC8), and has been observed on Earth in only two other materials – silicon and germanium.

On Earth, the BC8 phase of carbon does not occur naturally, but it is thought that it may exist in outer space and in high-pressure environments within exoplanets.

“The BC8 structure maintains the perfect shape of the tetrahedral nearest neighbor, but without the cleavage planes found in a diamond structure,” explained physicist John Eggert, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Although the theory is sound, attempts to formulate it in reality have not succeeded so far. This is because there is a very small region of temperature and pressure within which the BC8 phase can occur and these ranges are unknown.

“We expected that the post-diamond BC8 phase would be experimentally accessible only within a narrow, high-pressure, high-temperature region of the carbon phase diagram,” explained physicist Ivan Oleinik of the University of South Florida.

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