Diamond can be bent and deformed, study

The discovery opens up a range of possibilities for the design and engineering of new nanoscale devices in sensing, defense, and energy storage but also shows the challenges that lie ahead for future nanotechnologies.

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Diamond is the hardest known natural material. Diamond has emerging applications in nanophotonics, micro-electrical mechanical systems, and radiation shielding. But, how this material behaves at the nanoscale—how they bend, deform, change state, crack- remains obscure.

A new study has shown that the diamond can be bent and deformed, at least at the nanoscale.

Scientists from Curtin University and Sydney University, worked with diamond nanoneedles, approximately 20nm in length, or 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. The nanoparticles were subjected to an electric field force from a scanning electron microscope.

This unique, non-destructive and reversible technique enabled scientists to demonstrate that the nanoneedles, also known as diamond nanopillars, could be bent in the middle to 90 degrees without fracturing.

Along with this elastic deformation, scientists observed a new form of plastic deformation when the nanopillar dimensions and crystallographic orientation of the diamond occurred together in a particular way.

Chief Investigator UTS Professor Igor Aharonovich said, “the result was the unexpected emergence of a new state of carbon (termed 08-carbon) and demonstrated the “unprecedented mechanical behavior of the diamond.”

“These are significant 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. Unlike many other hypothetical phases of carbon, 08-carbon appears spontaneously under strain with the diamond-like bonds progressively breaking in a zipper-like manner, transforming a large region from diamond into 08-carbon.”

“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 study is published in Advanced Materials.