Researchers plan to create superhard materials using insane amounts of pressure

superhard materials pressure rs16388 vohra
Looking for an efficient nutcracker in time for the holidays? You can’t go wrong befriending Yogesh Vohra.

Or maybe you can — because, as a professor and scholar of physics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Vohra has led a team of researchers in creating artificial diamonds by generating previously unseen amounts of pressure.

“When you fill your car tire at the gas station, you use approximately two atmospheres of pressure,” he told Digital Trends. “With our work, the goal is eventually to get to 10 million atmospheres, which is the equivalent of the pressure at the center of Saturn. By comparison, the pressure at the center of the Earth is around 3.6 million atmospheres.”

The key to the work is a tiny nanocrystalline-diamond anvil, which has been created in a clean room manufacturing facility at the university. “Our main innovation is the ability to grow a nanocrystalline diamond on top of a single crystal,” Vohra continued. “The reason this is exciting is because it’s possible to achieve much higher pressures using these nanocrystalline diamonds.”

At just 30 micrometers wide and 15 micrometers tall, the team’s nanocrystalline pillar of diamond is tiny, but astonishingly effective. In a test at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, it showed no sign of deformation when exposed to 264 gigapascals of pressure. This number is roughly 75 percent of the pressure found at the center of the Earth.

“In the last two years, we’ve had a breakthrough in terms of generating pressure due to these nanocrystalline diamonds,” he continued.

So what is the goal of the miniature diamond anvils? Ultimately, there are several — but one will be the possibility of creating as-yet-unknown new materials. Since massive amounts of force in the natural world are capable of turning carbon into diamonds, or volcanic ash into slate, the idea is that increased pressure can result in materials we’ve not even dreamed of.

“There’s a lot interest in this field from a material science perspective,” Vohra concluded. “The ability to generate extreme conditions and the possibility of synthesizing new materials under pressure is very exciting. One of the areas we’re looking at is the creation of novel superhard materials. Diamonds are an incredibly hard material, but they still have limitations when you reach extreme temperatures. Under extreme conditions, a whole new kind of material science becomes possible.”

Next up for the project is the goal of creating smaller grain sizes in the nanocrystalline diamond, which Vohra hopes will make the material even stronger. It’s also hoped that ion beams can be used to machine the top of the micro-anvil to a hemispherical shape, thereby creating an even narrower contact point for greater pressure.

Just make sure your fingers are nowhere near it when it starts crushing things!

Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Gaming

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.