Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
A group of scientists discovered a new type of mineral, of extraterrestrial origin, that is harder than diamondwhich was until now the hardest material known to man.
According to experts, the first sample of lonsdaleite, as the mineral was named, It was found in 1967 in the Barringer Crater.located in the state of Arizona. It is estimated that it was formed approximately 50,000 years ago after the impact of a meteorite hence its extraterrestrial origin.
However, despite having been found 55 years ago, its discovery was not made official until very recently when, thanks to technological advances, researchers were able to study the material in greater detail.
The reason for this is that initially scientists they believed that it was simply a strange shape of diamond Since both materials are allotropes of carbon, this means materials whose structure is made up of carbon intertwined in different structures.
In the case of diamond, the formations have cube structures, while in the case of “supercritical”, as it has been called, they are in the form of hexagons..
Paul Asimow, professor of geology and geochemistry at Caltech, explained that the discovery was made possible by advances in microscopy that have occurred in recent years. This technology was not available at the time the material was found, so for years it was impossible to study it in detail.
Although lonsdaleite is much harder than a common diamond, both share a characteristic and that is that they can be formed from strong impacts, such as that generated by the impact of a meteorite.
“Nature has provided us with a process for try to replicate it in the industry. We believe lonsdaleite could be used to make small, ultra-hard machine parts if we can develop an industrial process that promotes the replacement of preformed graphite parts with lonsdaleite,” says Andy Tomkins, one of the researchers on the team behind the discovery.
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