Materials: Scientists create 'ultrahard' GLASS that's even harder than a diamond

Materials: Scientists create 'ultrahard' GLASS that's even harder than a diamond
Materials: Scientists create 'ultrahard' GLASS that's even harder than a diamond

It might soon be time to ditch that bulky phone case, as scientists have created an ultrahard glass that is even harder than natural diamonds.

The so-called carbon glass, which also has the highest thermal conductivity of all known glasses, was produced by researchers led from China's Jilin University.

They synthesised it by placing 'buckyballs' — a soccer-ball like form of carbon — in an anvil press and subjecting them to extreme temperatures and pressures.

The sample pictured below, for example, formed at 30 GPa and 1,598°F, although production was possible at lower pressures and higher temperatures and vice versa.

The hardness achieved — around 102 GPa — makes it one of the hardest glasses presently known, second only to the recently-synthesised AM-III carbon (113 GPa).

It might soon be time to ditch that bulky phone case, as scientists have fashioned an ultrahard glass that is even harder than natural diamonds. Pictured: a sample of the carbon glass, around 1 millimetre across, which was formed at 30 GPa and 1,598°F (870°C)

It might soon be time to ditch that bulky phone case, as scientists have fashioned an ultrahard glass that is even harder than natural diamonds. Pictured: a sample of the carbon glass, around 1 millimetre across, which was formed at 30 GPa and 1,598°F (870°C)

The so-called carbon glass, which also has the highest thermal conductivity of all known glasses, was produced by researchers led from China's Jilin University. Pictured: increasingly magnified transmission electron microscope images of the new carbon glass

The so-called carbon glass, which also has the highest thermal conductivity of all known glasses, was produced by researchers led from China's Jilin University. Pictured: increasingly magnified transmission electron microscope images of the new carbon glass

What is ultrahard glass? 

A team of Chinese scientists led from Yanshan University recently unveiled a transparent, yellow-tinted glass called AM-III, which is capable of leaving a deep scratch on a diamond. 

The material, which is made entirely of carbon, reached 113 gigapascals (GPa) on the Vickers hardness test, while diamonds typically score somewhere between 50 and 70 on the GPa scale.

For comparison, the carbon glass produced by Dr Fei and colleagues only scored 102 GPa in the test.

AM-III, according to the researchers, is not a diamond replacement, but could be used to develop stronger solar cells in solar panels and tougher bulletproof windows that would be 20 to 100 percent stronger than current models. 

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'The creation of a glass with such superior properties will open the door to new applications,' said paper author and geochemist Yingwei Fei of Washington's Carnegie Institution for Science.

'The use of new glass materials hinges on making large pieces, which has posed a challenge in the past.

'The comparatively low temperature at which we were able to synthesize this new ultrahard diamond glass makes mass production more practical.' 

Carbon is able to assume a variety of stable forms, which differ based on their molecular structure. Some — like graphite and diamond — are highly structured, while others are disordered, or 'amorphous', like regular glass.

The hardness of each form is dictated by its internal bonds. Graphite, for example, is flaky because it has a two-dimensional arrangement of bonds, with layers of

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