The impact of asteroids colliding with Earth created materials with a range of complex carbon structures, which could be used for future engineering applications according to an international study.
The team of researchers has found that diamonds formed during a high-energy shock wave from an asteroid collision around 50,000 years ago have unique and exceptional properties, caused by short-term high temperatures and extreme pressure.
The researchers say that these structures can be targeted for advanced mechanical and electronic applications, giving us the ability to design materials that are not only hard but also flexible.
For the study, scientists from the UK, US, Hungary, Italy, and France used state-of-the-art crystallographic and spectroscopic exams of the mineral lonsdaleite.
The team found that it is comprised of diamond and Graphene-like intergrowths, which are called diaphites, in a crystal. Stacking faults, or errors, in the sequence of the repeating patterns of layers of atoms were identified by the team.
The lead author is a physician. Péter Németh said, “We can get closer to understanding the pressure-temperature conditions that occur during asteroid impacts through the recognition of the various intergrowth types between graphene and diamond structures.
The unique environments of carbon atoms at the interface between diamond and graphene made the distance between the layers unusual. The diaphite structure is responsible for a previously unknown feature.
Structural units can occur in a wide range of other carbonaceous materials produced by shock and static compression or deposition from the vapor phase.
The discovery has opened the door to new carbon materials with exciting mechanical and electronic properties that may result in new applications like abrasives and electronics.
Shock-formed carbon materials with intergrown sp3– and sp2-bonded nanostructured units, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2203672119
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