Researchers have developed a new method to synthesise fullerite, the hardest material on earth.
Fullerite, a polymer composed of fullerenes, or spherical molecules made of carbon atoms, is almost double the hardness of diamond.
Fullerenes or 'buckyballs' as they are also known, are arranged in spheres to form the material fullerite. The material's hardness largely depends on how interconnected the spheres are.
The present method for creating fullerite delivered a three-dimensional polymer in which the carbon spheres are interconnected by covalent bonds in all directions.
The requirement of high pressures of almost 100,000 times the normal atmospheric pressure makes fullerite difficult to synthesise on a large scale.
However, by adding carbon disulfide to the mix, the team, from the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Troitsk, MIPT, MISiS, and MSU, was able to produce the fullerite at lower pressures and room temperature. This is because it acts as an 'accelerator'.
The scientists claim that the synthesis allows industry scale production of the material.
Their findings have been published in the journal Carbon.