Asteroid collisions with Earth have resulted in formation of diamond materials with unusual and exceptional properties.
High-energy shock waves from an asteroid collision around 50,000 years ago have formed carbon-crystals with unique and exceptional properties. According to an international study led by UCL and Hungarian scientists, these structures could be the result of the short-term high temperatures and extreme pressure. According to Phys.org, the scientists have examined the carbon-mineral lonsdaleite discovered in the fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite that hit Earth about 50,000 years ago, forming Meteor Crater in the desert of Arizona. The lonsdaleite was previously thought to comprise pure hexagonal diamonds, wherein the carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagonal pattern, making it different from the classic cubic diamond. However, the team found that it consists of nanostructured diamond and graphene, a two-dimensional crystalline layer of carbon atoms, however, there is an unusual distance between the graphene layers due to the unique environments of carbon atoms.
The researchers said that these structures can be targeted for advanced mechanical and electronic applications, giving them the ability to design materials that are not only ultra-hard but also malleable with tunable electronic properties
“This is very exciting since we can now detect diaphite structures in diamond using a simple spectroscopic technique without the need for expensive and laborious electron microscopy,” stated the study co-author Professor Chris Howard (UCL Physics & Astronomy).
Professor Christoph Salzmann, the other co-author of the study, has shared, “it should be possible to design materials that are both ultra-hard and also ductile, as well as have adjustable electronic properties from a conductor to an insulator.” He further added that the new discovery has opened the door to new carbon materials with exciting mechanical and electronic properties. It could lead to new applications ranging from abrasives and electronics to nanomedicine and laser technology.