If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, just wait til she gets a look at these.
Allow us to introduce Q-carbon, a compound that is both harder and shinier than your typical diamond. It was discovered by researchers at North Carolina State University, but Q-carbon will likely be used in medicine more than it will be in future engagement rings.
The compound is made by taking amorphous carbon (a loose carbon that can be used to coat objects) and blasting it with a single laser pulse that raises its temperature to about 3,727 degrees Celsius in a fraction of a second. The compound is then rapidly cooled, leaving you with Q-carbon. The result is a substance that may never have existed on our planet before, and it has some unique little traits.
For one, it’s magnetic (something other forms of solid carbon, like diamonds, are not) and it also glows when exposed to low levels of energy.
“Q-carbon’s strength and low work-function – its willingness to release electrons – make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies,” lead study author Jay Narayan said in a statement.
When Q-carbon is created, it actually comes out in the form of films. By changing the rate of cooling, scientists can allow for the creation of diamond structures within the film, possibly paving the way for cheaper gemstones of the future.
“We’re basically using a laser like the ones used for laser eye surgery. So, not only does this allow us to develop new applications, but the process itself is relatively inexpensive,” Narayan said. “We can create diamond nanoneedles or microneedles, nanodots, or large-area diamond films, with applications for drug delivery, industrial processes and for creating high-temperature switches and power electronics.”
The ability to create nanodiamonds (i.e. diamond nanoneedles, nanodots, etc.) on the cheap is actually a big deal. They’re on the cutting edge of cancer research, and Drexel university is currently studying their ability to deliver anti-cancer drugs into brain tumours.
Scientists say they still have much to learn about Q-carbon before it will roll out into the medical world in any significant way, but one thing’s for sure: These are a whole lot cooler than some pretty little rock.