Oct. 20, 1999 Since 1956, when scientists discovered how to make artificial diamonds in a laboratory under high pressure, researchers have attempted to find a pressure limit that would cause diamonds to structurally collapse. Until now, this pressure limit could not be reached. As reported in the Oct. 14 issue of Nature, Yury Gogotsi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his colleagues, Andreas Kailer and Klaus Nickel from the University of Tuebingen, Germany, have -- through an alternate method, called shearing -- done just that.
While most scientists have attempted to use compression to change the cubic arrangement of diamonds that gives them their hardness, Gogotsi and his colleagues essentially sheared a diamond layer by layer until it formed graphite, commonly used in pencil lead. This shearing can be done simply by pushing a sharp diamond stylus into the diamond surface.
The resulting diamond shavings may be useful substrates in making computer chips, for example, which could enable more powerful processors. Likewise, such artificial "gems" can be used to make machine components and gears. The discovery also suggests how to cut and polish hard diamond crystals in a more efficient way and will enable new applications for diamonds.
Diamonds have been a mainstay in science and technology for decades.
"The use of diamonds in industry far exceeds the use of diamonds for jewelry," Gogotsi says. "They are a widely used industrial product because they have the highest thermal conductivity and are the hardest of any known material."
"We've expanded the limits of our knowledge today," Gogotsi says. "It's something that's been considered impossible for more than 40 years."
With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of the 88 leading research universities in the country. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.
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