Diamonds are one of the hardest materials on Earth, but researchers have created an innovative method to make it curve and twist. The main element of these procedures consists of working at the smallest possible levels. By irradiating an electric field at diamond nanoneedles only 20 nanometers in size, which is approximately 10,000 times tinier than a human hair, the scientists could get them to curve to 90 degrees without fracturing them.
Bending Diamonds Without Breaking Them
A scanning electron microscope was utilized to complete the task, which doesn’t do any damage or flaws the diamond, but does generate sufficient electrostatic charge for the needles to curve. This new process is two-sided as well.
The outstanding success could have a number of useful applications for the way a diamond is used, for instance, in storing energy, or in protective fabrics, or even in quantum computing. However, the team of scientists stated that their work also cautions of probable challenges for nanotechnology.
“Diamond is the frontrunner for emerging applications in nanophotonics, micro-electrical mechanical systems, and radiation shielding,” material scientist Blake Regan said. He is from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia.
“We need to know how these materials behave at the nanoscale – how they bend, deform, change state, crack. And we haven’t had this information for single-crystal diamond.”
Regan and his fellow colleagues are trying to find out how the mechanical properties of materials can alter when handling very tiny samples of them. The team conducted molecular dynamics simulations besides their observations to analyze the basic mechanisms.
Besides the curving of the diamond nanoneedles back and forth, the scientists also noticed a new kind of plastic deformation, where the needles did not curve back. This only happened when the sizes of the nanoneedles and the direction of the diamond crystals were placed in a very specific manner.
Not the First Research of This Kind
The team of researchers also found out a new theoretical state of carbon via their simulations, which they have dubbed O8-carbon. The state shows up as a diamond is placed under pressure, with links gradually breaking like a zipper.
All of these findings are incredibly useful both in the research of diamond and in the analysis of nanotechnology in general. Getting diamond pieces of this tiny size is not as simple as some might think it is at the moment but could have numerous potential uses in the future.
The scientists behind the most recent research are not the first to discover a way to curve a diamond without leading it to fissure. Similar results were revealed two years ago, and they also included diamond nanoneedles, even though they were produced and tested using several other processes.
“These are very important insights into the dynamics of how nanostructured materials distort and bend, and how altering the parameters of a nanostructure can alter any of its physical properties from mechanical to magnetic to optical,” says physicist Igor Aharonovich from UTS.
“The potential applications of nanotechnology are quite diverse. Our findings will support the design and engineering of new devices in applications such as super-capacitors or optical filters or even air filtration.”
The paper has been published in Advanced Materials.