Monday, May 20, 2024
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“Super-Diamond” BC8: 30% Stronger and a Cosmic Mystery

Scientists have simulated a theoretical form of carbon, known as BC8, that could potentially dethrone diamond as the hardest material on Earth. This “super-diamond” is predicted to withstand compression 30% greater than diamond, offering exciting possibilities for various applications. However, synthesizing BC8 in the lab remains a challenge, with its formation requiring extreme pressure and temperature conditions.

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Recent simulations, published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, suggest that BC8 might be found deep within carbon-rich exoplanets, where such extreme conditions exist. Understanding BC8’s properties is crucial for accurately modeling the interiors of these distant worlds.

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Researchers utilized the Frontier supercomputer to simulate billions of carbon atoms under various pressures and temperatures. Their findings indicate that BC8 becomes extremely stable at pressures exceeding 181,250 psi, which is over 12 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure. Notably, once formed, BC8 remains stable even at room temperature.

The key to BC8’s superior strength lies in its atomic structure. While similar to diamond, BC8 lacks the cleavage planes that act as weak points in diamonds. This discovery has spurred renewed efforts to synthesize BC8 in the lab, with the Lawrence Livermore National Ignition Laboratory exploring methods involving high-pressure collisions of diamonds.

The potential applications of BC8 are vast, ranging from cutting tools and abrasives to aerospace components and even electronics. However, harnessing the power of this “super-diamond” hinges on successfully creating it in the lab, a feat that continues to challenge scientists.

The quest to understand and synthesize BC8 not only pushes the boundaries of material science but also offers a glimpse into the exotic materials that might exist in the depths of distant planets.

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