Scientists Create Material Stronger Than Diamonds

Researchers have created a material called Q-carbon, which is harder than diamonds, seen here. Siphiwe Sibeko / REUTERS

Researchers have created a material that they say is harder than diamonds and represents a whole new form of carbon. It's also magnetic, and it glows.

Scientists at North Carolina State University made the new substance, dubbed Q-carbon. They created it by illuminating amorphous carbon (that is, without a well-defined molecular structure) with a laser for 200 nanoseconds, very briefly raising the temperature of the material to 6,740 degrees Fahrenheit. This method produced a thin layer of Q-carbon, which is made of a 3-D lattice stronger than that of diamond.

Although researchers don't fully understand why just yet, the material also can function as a magnet, and it gives forth a fluorescent glow when an electrical current is applied to it. All of these properties could give it a number of applications as diverse as use in drill bits or as materials for TV monitors.

The scientists also say they can turn Q-carbon into diamonds by slightly modifying their laser technique.

"In 15 minutes, we can make a carat [200 milligrams] of diamonds," researcher and study co-author Jay Narayan told The New York Times.

A study describing the finding was published this week in the Journal of Applied Physics.