Apart from their use in gems & jewelry, Diamonds have been extensively used in several Industrial applications, whether as drilling tips and blades for grinding & drilling or in medical & scientific fields. Lab-grown diamonds, which have the exact chemical, physical, thermal and optical properties as mined diamonds, widely fulfilled the requirements of Industry. However, there is a need for even tougher, harder and more thermally stable (ability to remain intact under very high temperatures) materials.
Scientists at Yanshan University of China have developed nanodiamonds that measure 20-50 nanometers and contain twinning crystal structure of even 5 nanometers, which is twice the thickness of a single strand of DNA, using a nanoparticle called ‘onion carbon’. These nanodiamonds reportedly can withstand 2-3 times greater pressure than natural diamond, temperature up to 1,056 degrees Celsius i.e. 200 degree hotter than natural diamond and also weather strong forces without cracking.
Xu, a material scientist, said that the nano twinning makes the diamonds harder, at the same time the small crystal size lends stability and the multiple twinning boundaries help in absorbing the force that can otherwise break it.
While Jim Boland, a diamond expert at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Australia, commented nanodiamonds as extraordinary, there are others who view the purported results with skepticism like Dr. Natalia Dubrovinskaia, a German crystallographer, who questioned the logic of nanodiamond’s testing methods. Nevertheless, these diamonds are still in the lab stage and their commercial production needs to be figured out. Only time will tell, whether the nanodiamonds will help usher into a new age of Industrial diamonds.
Source: Rosen, J. (2014) “Tiny New Synthetic Diamond increases the strength of girl’s best friend”, Los Angeles Times