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New Form of Carbon Discovered with Unusual Properties

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:24AM

Carbon is an element that just keeps on giving as its various forms possess some wild properties. Diamond is among the hardest natural elements, while graphite is very soft, and graphene has amazing electrical properties. Now Q-carbon has been discovered by researchers at North Carolina State University with its own curious set of characteristics, and provides an avenue to make diamonds at room temperature and pressure.

Creating Q-carbon is surprisingly simple, as all it takes is a laser pulse about 200 nanoseconds long being fired at amorphous carbon on a substrate like sapphire, glass, or a plastic polymer. This laser pulse heats the carbon to 4000 K, and it then rapidly cools forming films of Q-carbon that can be between 20 nm and 500 nm thick. Surprisingly it is ferromagnetic, which the researchers did not think was possible, harder than diamond, and has a low work function, meaning it will release electrons easily. In fact the material glows when exposed to low levels of energy.

By changing how fast the carbon cools, the researchers found they could also build small diamond structures, like nano- and microneedles, nanodots, and larger films, within the Q-carbon. While Q-carbon may appear to be superior to diamond, we do not know all of its properties yet, while diamond is well understood, so this simple way of producing diamond is still a significant discovery. The laser used to create both the Q-carbon and diamond is comparable to that used in laser eye surgery, so the process to make the materials is pretty inexpensive.

Source: North Carolina State University

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