From what we have read in our school textbooks, diamond is the hardest material known to humankind. So, is that true? Well, diamond is pretty hard no doubt and you can easily get one if you can afford it. However, based on the ever expanding knowledge and new scientific breakthroughs, researchers have found several new materials that are harder than diamond. If you thought diamond was hardest, here’s a quick look at some materials that will prompt you to change your beliefs.
Wurtzite boron nitride – This is very rare, but it does exist on earth. When atoms of boron and nitrogen bond together, it can create various structures such as hexagonal (like graphite), amorphous (non-crystalline), and cubic (like diamond). Such bonding can also be in wurtzite form, in which case, it becomes harder than diamond. This is usually formed during volcanic eruptions, but in very minute quantities. As per estimates, Wurtzite boron nitride is 18% harder than diamond.
Lonsdaleite – This is formed when a meteor containing graphite collides with earth. The huge impact compresses the graphite, resulting in a hexagonal structure that is around 58% harder than diamond. However, due to impurities, actual Lonsdaleite stones are softer than diamonds. For it to be harder than diamond, we will need a fully graphite meteor to collide with earth.
Dyneema – Created in a lab environment, Dyneema is a thermoplastic polyethylene polymer. Its strength is due to its dense molecular mass, measuring millions of atomic mass units. It is currently rated to be the strongest fiber in the world. It is 15 times as strong as steel and yet it’s lighter than water.
Palladium microalloy glass – It is common knowledge that glass is strong, but very brittle. You need a diamond to cut glass, but it easily breaks if you just drop it on a hard floor. To make glass tougher, researchers created a new microalloy glass that has elements like silver, silicon, palladium, germanium and phosphorous. This created a new type of glass that does not crack on impact. It is currently the hardest material that does not have carbon in it.
Buckypaper – When carbon nanotubes are combined into a hexagonal shape and formed into a thin sheet, it is known as Buckypaper. This is just 10% of the weight of steel and yet it is more than hundred times stronger. It has various other properties such as resistance of electromagnetic waves, fireproof and high thermal conductivity.
Graphene – This is a hexagonal carbon lattice, whose structure is a single atom thick. It is the strongest material known currently, if we compare it to other materials in terms of their thickness and respective strength. Graphene has extraordinary thermal and electrical conductivity, which is why it is being widely used in various industries.