Nano Carbon

Nano Carbon Material is Almost "Diamond-Hard"

We could be approaching the era of diamond-hard cockpits and paper-thin bullet-proof fabrics: couple independent research teams located in two opposite corners of the world have come up with similar results using the technique of cold compression of carbon - technologically available method of creating high-density materials. Several new structural modifications called: H-carbon, S-carbon, M-carbon, C4 carbon, orthorhombic W-carbon and the newest M10-carbon have been discovered and recent experimental reports are consistent with computer simulations in few cases.

Nano Carbon: The Key Word is Pressure!

The known forms of carbon which includes diamond, graphite, graphene and couple others form when carbon atoms bond together into sheets, tubes or spherical forms. Recently however, scientists have grown confident that it is possible to produce to produce another type of nano carbon structures, with structure similar to diamond, using room-temperature compressions of 10 Giga Pascals and higher. When you squeeze something that hard it starts changing its physical properties, such as transparency to light, reflectance etc. When that happens you know there is a major change of phase has taken place and the new carbon material, or allotrope, is being born. But since atoms of carbon can form almost infinite number of different connections, there is no shortage of candidates.

Nano Structures Positioned Somewhere Between Graphite and Diamond 

One team, led by Chaoyu He at the Institute of Quantum Engineering and Micro-Nano Energy Technology in Xiangtan, China has proposed couple new super hard carbon structures, which they called H-carbon and S-carbon. Chaoyu He claims that new forms are more stable than graphene, M-carbon and W-carbon at high pressures. Even though their work is entirely theoretical, it is done using well proven methods of computer simulations. Now, researchers actually have to measure the nano carbon structure to back up their own principle calculations.
Two new candidates: H-carbon and S-carbon will take position somewhere between graphite and diamond, except that they can be produced at the room temperature.

Just About as Hard

Meantime, the group of scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland led by the Maximilian Amsler have been able to generate the diamond-like sp3 bonds in carbon using, once again, computer simulation.These bonds are capable to withstand pressures above 14 GigaPascals, making this new material just about as hard as diamond. They called it M-Carbon. The X-Ray Diffraction testing has confirmed the computer simulated results. Too bad the M-Carbon is just one of many proposed structures, Z-carbon also produced similar patterns during testing, and it is going to take some time to establish confidence in one particular model.

The Next Successful Structural Model

Today, critics are not clear which of these proposed structural models can be successfully physically produced. What's going to happen next? The best and the most reliable way to determine which model has a realistic chance to be materialized is to precisely measure every simulated connection, therefore the ball is back on the researchers court. True, narrowing down the potential candidate might take some time, but still, the air is filled with the anticipation of the new amazing step in the evolution of carbon materials.

References: Technology Review, The Physics arXiv Blog, Chaoyu He, L. Z. Sun, C. X. Zhang, Jianxin Zhong at the Institute for Quantum Engineering and Micro-Nano Energy Technology in Xiangtan, Maximilian Amsler at the University of Basel.