Diamonds are not the hardest material on Earth anymore. They have recently lost their title to man-made nanomaterials. We all know diamonds as a girl’s best friends, but it seems they are losing their reputation as the hardest substance on Earth. They are no longer the most expensive and desirable stones. Although diamonds are still one of the hardest naturally occurring materials, there are other substances that are actually much stronger and resilient.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
Graphene is a revolutionary material developed in our century. It is present in the structure of carbon nanotubes and its applications are growing continuously. In addition, it is the hardest element on Earth and is also a conductor of both electricity and heat, plus it is transparent to light. Most importantly, graphene will grow into a multibillion-dollar industry in the coming decades.
Since the late 20th-century, we know that there is a form of carbon that is even harder than the hardest stone on Earth – the diamond. These are the carbon nanotubes forming when carbon bindes together. They are important for the creation of a thin sheet called bucky paper which is extremely strong.
The palladium glass is the strongest type of glass. It contains five elements – germanium, silver, silicon, palladium and phosphorus. The palladium in the mix allows the glass to deform rather than crack. It is not only stronger than all types of steel but it is the hardest material to not include carbon.
Dyneema is a thermoplastic polymer with extremely high molecular weight. Although it is lighter than water, it is one of the strongest fibres in the world.
Lonsdaleite or hexagonal diamond is an allotrope of carbon with a crystal structure. It is present in Nature and forms as a result of a meteorite containing graphite striking our Planet.
With the scientific and technological advancement, we are now able to push the frontiers of the materials available to us farther than ever before. Most importantly, the modern materials are stronger, scratch-resistant, harder, tougher and lighter which opens new opportunities. Moreover, their applications also expand significantly. While before manipulating individual atoms were like science-fiction, today this capacity is something common.
To sum it up, we are stepping into the nanotech age these materials are becoming increasingly important for our quality of life. Living in a civilization in which diamonds are no longer the hardest material on Earth is pretty exciting. We will all get to see what becomes possible with these new materials in the future.