While studying diamonds inside an ancient meteorite, scientists found a strange, tangled microstructure that had never been seen before.
The researchers say the structure, an interlocking form of graphite and diamond, has unique properties that could one day be used to develop ultrafast charging or new types of electronics.
The diamond structures were sealed inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite, which collided with Earth 50,000 years ago and was first discovered in Arizona in 1891. The diamonds in this meteorite are not the type most people are familiar with. The most famous diamond formed About 90 miles (150 kilometers) below the Earth’s surface, temperatures rise to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1093 degrees Celsius). The carbon atoms Inside these diamonds are arranged in cubic shapes.
By contrast, the diamond inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite is known as lonsdaleite – named after British crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, the first female professor at University College London – and has a hexagonal crystal structure. This diamond is only formed under very intense pressures and Temperatures. Although scientists have succeeded in making lonsdaleite in the lab – using gunpowder and compressed air to propel graphite discs at 15,000 miles per hour (24100 km/h) On the wall – lonsdaleite is formed in another way only when asteroids He hits a land at extremely high speeds.
Related: Diamonds mined from the depths of the earth contain an unprecedented mineral
While studying lonsdaleite in the meteorite, researchers found something strange. Instead of the pure hexagonal structures they were expecting, the researchers found the growth of another carbon-based material called graphene entangled with diamond. This increase is known as hard (Opens in a new tab)And within the meteorite, they form in a particularly interesting layering pattern. Between these layers there are “stacking defects,” which means the layers don’t line up perfectly, the researchers said statement (Opens in a new tab).
The finding of the grains in the lonsdaleite meteorite indicates that this material may be found in another carbonaceous material, the scientists wrote in the study, meaning it could be readily available for use as a resource. The discovery also gives the researchers a better sense of the pressures and temperatures needed to create the structure.
Graphene consists of a carbon sheet one atom thick, arranged in hexagonal shapes. Although research on this material is still ongoing, the material has many potential applications. Because it is light as a feather and strong as a diamond; transparent and highly conductive; And 1 million times thinner than human hair (Opens in a new tab)The researchers said they could one day be used for more targeted drugs, smaller electronics with lightning-fast charging speeds, or faster, more curved technology.
Now that researchers have discovered the growth of this graphene within meteorites, it is possible to learn more about how it formed – and thus how it was made in the lab.
“Through the controlled growth of the layer of the structures, it should be possible to design materials that are highly rigid and also ductile, as well as conductor-to-insulator modifiable electronic properties,” said Christoph Salzman, a chemist at University College London and co-author of a research paper describing search , He said in the statement (Opens in a new tab).
The strange new structures were described on July 22 in the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Opens in a new tab).
Originally published on Live Science.