Harder than diamond, but thin and ultralight graphene developed; Will it help build Space Elevator?

Nanomaterial to build Space Elevator is almost here

By applying pressure at the nanoscale with an indenter to two layers of graphene, each one-atom thick, CUNY researchers transformed the honeycombed graphene into a diamond-like material at room temperature. Ella Maru Studio

Researchers at City University of New York (CUNY) have developed a flexible and lightweight material from graphite called diamene which could transform into a diamond-like material when hit by bullets or hard objects.

This impenetrable material can be used to make wear-resistant, ultra-light bulletproof suits to withstand strong impacts. If developed as desired, it may bridge the gap scientists have been facing for over two decades to build a Space Elevator with strong but light nanotubes.

Researchers have developed this time two layers of graphene, a form of carbon graphite, which is one atom thick. The material transformed like a diamond during an impact at room temperature. In the past, they had tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene and created a very soft film. But this time, when the graphite film was exactly two layers thick, they realized that the material they created was extremely hard and stiffer than diamond.

Elisa Reido, professor of physics at the ASRC and the project's lead researcher said, "This is the thinnest film with the stiffness and hardness of diamond ever created."

Researchers say that the distinct arrangements of carbon atoms in graphite and diamond give them hardness, flexibility, and electrical conduction. New technologies have helped to manipulate the properties of graphite to acquire beneficial properties of a diamond under specific conditions, owing to its spin electronic properties.

Angelo Bongiorno, an associate professor of chemistry at CUNY College of Staten Island had developed the theory for creating diamene using computer simulations. The computer simulations at an atomic level found two potential outcomes when pressure is applied to the honeycomb layers of graphene. Atomic force microscopes were used to calculate the results of applied pressure.

The experiment found that graphite-to-diamond transition does not occur for more than two layers of graphene layers. The findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The researchers are currently working on methods to apply the graphite-to-diamond transition in two-dimensional materials. The researchers also aim to stabilize the transition in all temperatures and weather conditions. They also try to find further applications of the resulting materials.

This article was first published on December 23, 2017