While the scientific world has been parading graphene around on its shoulders, another wonder material has arrived on the scene called diamond nanothread, which claims to be ultra-light while being super strong.
The discovery started with Pennsylvania State University, who announced the creation of a new kind of carbon that takes the form of a one-dimensional diamond crystal capped with hydrogen. Another carbon-based nanomaterial that could rival graphene? People in lab coats were aghast.
However, despite the intrigue around the diamond nanothread, it was believed it would be too brittle to put into application as the longer you created the structure the more brittle it becomes. That is, until, scientists at the Queensland University of Technology stepped in to play around with a few computer models of the structure and provide some mind-blowing insights.
MIT Technology Review explains that they found by constructing the diamond nanothread molecules with Stone-Wales defects – a certain configuration of atoms that act like hinges – the nanothread became flexible. The rather nice analogy of it turning from uncooked to cooked spaghetti gives a good layman visualisation. The structure is also able to be "tuneable" meaning scientists can choose to apply the rigid or flexible properties to certain parts so they can create strong and versatile-shaped structures. In theory, anyway.
All this dazzling news about this potential new wonder material is all based on computer simulation by the team at QUT. When it comes to applying this in real-life tests, it is believed there will almost certainly be differences in its behaviour, so we will have to hold our breath.
But what could it be used for? At the moment these diamonds are up in the air. The researchers suggest "its highly tunable ductility together with its ultra-light density and high Young's modulus makes diamond nanothread ideal for the creation of extremely strong three-dimensional nano-architectures". It's still all very exciting, though, and when these diamond nanothreads are made for real, we hope to hear a few more corks popping in science labs.