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

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.