A study identifies dozens of new carbon structures that are expected to be superhard, including some that may be about as hard as diamonds.
Superhard materials can slice, drill and polish other objects. They also hold potential for creating scratch-resistant coatings that could help keep expensive equipment safe from damage.
Now, science is opening the door to the development of new materials with these seductive qualities.
Researchers have used computational techniques to identify 43 previously unknown forms of carbon that are thought to be stable and superhard — including several predicted to be slightly harder than or nearly as hard as diamonds. Each new carbon variety consists of carbon atoms arranged in a distinct pattern in a crystal lattice.
The study — published on Sept. 3 in the journal npj Computational Materials — combines computational predictions of crystal structures with machine learning to hunt for novel materials. The work is theoretical research, meaning that scientists have predicted the new carbon structures but have not created them yet.