Among all the elements that are present in nature, perhaps the most fascinating and astonishing element one is carbon. Having the most unique physical and chemical properties. It is perhaps the only element that is capable of forming the most complex of bonds and atomic structures. All life forms in this world are based on carbon, and it also has the atomic properties to link up with four other carbon atoms at once.
When the formation of diamonds comes to question. These carbon atoms bond up together to form up into stable lattices under specific temperature and pressure conditions. These ultra-hard structures are one of the hardest naturally occurring elements on Earth. And their unique properties have made them so soughed for that now. Diamonds are even being produce in manmade labs with the help of scientific processes.
Six Unique Materials Harder Than Diamond
Now, science and technology have had its name for evolving and improving from time to time; and though diamonds have their place as the hardest known element in the Mohs scale. Six other materials have been formulate which prove to be even harder than diamond. Yes, these are all manmade and artificial elements but still if we talk about elements according to their degree of hardness, these all stay superior and over the famed diamonds.
Before we go ahead and start describing these elements, it is essential to mention that there are several natural elements. Which though may not beat diamonds, but are still remarkably strong and durable in their forms. Noteworthy as they are: the spider silks are infamously popular because of their toughness; being tougher than even conventional naturally formed metals and alloys like aluminum and steel. They are so remarkably strong but yet so thin and lightweight that it almost seems impossible to believe upon the strength that these silks endure.
Other thank spider silks, silicon carbides are also immensely popular because of their toughness and hardness. And fall just a bit short than those of diamonds (they are harder than any known spider silk there is). They are popular among the masses by their name “moissanite”. And are widely used in the jewelry and gemstone markets as good and cost-effective alternatives to diamonds. Moreover, their high degree of hardness has also opened up their usage in many industrial and production sectors. For example being used as bulletproof vest plates to even brakes and clutches of cars. Along with hardness, the incredible properties of the electrical conductivity of moissanite has also made them popular among electrical and electronics industry as well.
Without any further ado, below, we will be discussing six unique materials that have surpassed the hardness limits of diamonds.
Wurtzite Boron Nitride
Similar to carbon, there are also other elements and compounds available. Which can form up crystals by bonding with other atoms and molecules. BN or boron nitride is such a compound, which is form by the combination of the fifth element (Boron) and the seventh element (Nitrogen) from the periodic table. The formations can be anything from being amorphous or non-crystalline to even hexagonal (like graphite) and cubic (like a diamond) in structure. Another form is the Wurtzite form.
The last three types of formations mentioned are extremely hard as well as rare in making. The Wurtzite formation is believe to be almost 18 percent harder than that of diamonds. Because of its special tetrahedral crystal lattice (unlike cubic ones of diamonds). Though there are not enough experiments to prove such claims. It surely will be something of a wonder to experience the qualities of such an element. Which is believed to be not very far away shortly.
Let’s imagine a scenario of a falling meteorite filled with graphite from space. It is natural for the meteorite to glow hot red due to the extreme temperature of its outer surface cause of all the friction that it experiences, but it is only the outer surface that truly becomes such hot. The inside of the meteorite remains cold enough. Now after it collides with our earth’s surface, the inside of the meteorite experiences a huge change in its temperature and pressure conditions (unlike any other conditions possible on or on our earth’s surface). The extreme pressure change changes the compression rate of the graphite particles and turns it into a crystalline hexagonal lattice. Such pure Lonsdaleite is almost 58 percent harder than that of what the diamonds can be. Unfortunately, though, such pure formation is still yet to be achieved. And the real-life lonsdaleite is all softer than diamonds due to the impurities present inside them.
Dyneema is a type of thermoplastic polyethylene polymer, which contains long polymer chains and is of very high molecular weight. The intermolecular interactions between these long chains of polymers make them one of the toughest known thermoplastics to ever exist.
They are so tough that they are comparable to 15 times the strength of steel and can stop bullets at high speeds easily. And the fun fact is, despite being so tough, they are lighter than water.
Palladium Micro-Alloy Glass
In the year of 2011, the scientists and experts came up with a combination of silicon, germanium, silver, phosphorous, and palladium. And developed a new one of a kind of micro-alloy glass. That is believe to be the toughest glass to ever exist. Moreover, this particular glass is believed to negate the brittleness factor. That most of the glasses are famed for and has both high amounts of strength as well as toughness. Its toughness and strength are exceed than any type of steel. That has ever been produced and is famed to be the toughest material, that has been made till now without any traces of carbon.
To simply describe, buckypaper is made with the help of not carbon; but carbon nanotubes. Thin macroscopic sheets are made out of these carbon nanotubes. Which are both strong and tough enough for about a hundred times than that of steel but only weighing for its 10 percent of weight. Apart from being strong and tough; buckypapers are also extremely thermally conductive, fireproof, and possess electromagnetic shielding properties.
Probably one of the best results that science has to offer, Graphene is undoubtedly the most revolutionary material that has been developed in the 21st century. In the year of 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their exceptional works involving graphene. Graphene is the thinnest known form of carbon allotrope to date. And is believe to be almost 200 percent stronger than that of steel. Along with its super strength and stiffness and hardness. Graphene is an amazingly pure substance and is almost 100 percent transparent when viewed in light. Not only that but graphene is also a better thermal and electrical conductor than graphite and diamond. And even has great feedbacks and properties about its impermeability as well.
Science has provided mankind with many beautiful blessings. We have started to make diamond inside labs which were believed to be one of nature’s valuable wonders. Not only that, but we have also even discovered materials that surpass the extreme limits of even a diamond. With more advancement in time and technology, there will certainly be no limits to remarkable inventions and evolutions that are yet to be made. Let’s as always, hope for the best.