In a groundbreaking development, scientists from the Center for Science at Extreme Conditions at the University of Edinburgh, leading an international team, claim to have engineered an unbreakable material nearly as hard as diamonds. This discovery, three decades in the making, centers around the synthesis of carbon nitrides, which are touted to be tougher than cubic boron nitride—the current second hardest material after diamonds.
Carbon nitrides were first recognized for their potential in the 1980s, boasting high heat resistance. However, the challenge lay in their creation, and until now, no credible studies on their synthesis had emerged. The researchers, including experts from the University of Bayreuth, Germany, and Linköping University, Sweden, subjected various forms of carbon nitrogen precursors to extreme conditions—pressures of 70-135 gigapascals and temperatures exceeding 1,500 °C (2732 °F).
The team’s breakthrough came when X-ray analysis at facilities in France, Germany, and the US revealed that three of the synthesized carbon nitride compounds possessed the requisite structures for a super-hard material. Astonishingly, these materials retained their ultra-hard qualities even after cooling off and returning to ambient pressure.
The potential applications of this new material are vast, ranging from protective coatings for vehicles and spacecraft to powerful cutting tools and photodetectors. Moreover, these incompressible carbon nitride compounds exhibited photoluminescence, piezoelectric, and high energy density properties, suggesting applications in energy storage and other fields.
Florian Trybel, assistant professor at Linköping University, expressed optimism about the collaborative research, stating, “We strongly believe this research will open up new possibilities for the field.” The recoverability of these materials in air at ambient conditions, coupled with their unique combination of properties, marks a significant step forward in material science, offering promising avenues for technological advancements and industrial applications.