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Diamond in the rough: Physicists invent super-rigid material using gemstones

March 16, 15:32 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Fullerite is a molecular crystal where fullerene molecules are located in the lattice points with the fullerene being a football-shaped molecule consisting solely of carbon atoms

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© Kirill Kukhmar/TASS

MOSCOW, March 16. /TASS/. Russian physicists modeled a fullerite and diamond-based structure and demonstrated that when pressure was applied the fullerite acquired a super-strong rigidity, the MIPT press office said. This breakthrough sets the stage for estimating the possible conditions to produce the super-rigid materials. The results of the study were published in the journal Carbon.

Fullerite is a molecular crystal where fullerene molecules are located in the lattice points with the fullerene being a football-shaped molecule consisting solely of carbon atoms. The fullerene possesses an outstanding rigidity, whereas the fullerite is a rather soft material, which nevertheless upon pressure becomes harder than a diamond.

"We hope that through our work, we will bring us closer to unlocking the mystery of ultrahard carbon. The developed model will help bring to light its properties and in synthesizing new ultra-hard carbon materials," Pavel Sorokin, the author of the research commented.

The reasons why fullerite becomes extremely hard once pressure is applied have been clarified by a group of scientists from Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials (TISNCM), Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), and the National University of Science and Technology "MISIS" under the guidance of Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Professor Leonid Chernozatonsky from the N.M. Emmanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics RAS, and Pavel Sorokin, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, leading researcher at the laboratory "Inorganic Nanomaterials" at MISIS and MIPT lecturer.

The researchers believe that upon contraction part of the fullerite evolves into a diamond-like carbon while the rest preserve its structure. The scientists developed a model where the structure in the contracted state has been encapsulated in a diamond, and have studied its properties. Essentially, the contracted fullerite is kept by the diamond’s shell giving an extreme rigidity to the whole structure.

During the course of the research, it turned out that with an increase in the size of fullerite cluster, while retaining the sizes of the diamond’s shell, the characteristics became very similar to the experimental one, with the material’s rigidity notably outdoing the features for diamonds.

The researchers believe that the results will promote further steps in researching fullerite.

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