Scientists in China have developed the hardest and strongest glassy material known so far that can scratch diamond crystals with ease.
The researchers, including those from Yanshan University in China, noted that the new material – tentatively named AM-III – has “outstanding” mechanical and electronic properties, and could find applications in solar cells due to its “ultra-high” strength and wear resistance.
Analysis of the material, published in the journal National Science Review, revealed that its hardness reached 113 gigapascals (GPa) while natural diamond stone usually scores 50 to 70 on the same test.
Using fullerenes, which are materials made of hollow football-like arrangements of carbon atoms, the researchers produced different types of glassy materials with varying molecular organisation among which AM-III had the highest order of atoms and molecules.
To achieve this order of molecules, the scientists crushed and blended the fullerenes together, gradually applying intense heat and pressure of about 25 GPa and 1,200 degrees Celsius in an experimental chamber for about 12 hours, spending an equal amount of time cooling the material.