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Asteroid collisions with Earth formed special diamond materials

Asteroid collisions with Earth have produced diamond material with unusual and exceptional properties.

High-energy shock waves from an asteroid collision about 50,000 years ago created carbon-crystals with unique and exceptional properties. According to an international study led by UCL and Hungarian scientists, these structures may be the result of short-term high temperatures and extreme pressures. According to, scientists tested the carbon-mineral lonsdelite discovered in fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite that struck Earth about 50,000 years ago, creating meteor craters in the Arizona desert. Lonsdaleite was previously thought to consist of pure hexagonal diamond, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagonal pattern, making it different from the classic cubic diamond. However, the team discovered that it contains nanostructured diamond and graphene, a two-dimensional crystalline layer of carbon atoms, but there is an unusual distance between the graphene layers due to the unique environment of the carbon atoms.

The researchers say these structures can be targeted for advanced mechanical and electronic applications, giving them the ability to design materials that are not only ultra-stiff but also flexible with tunable electronic properties.

“This is very exciting because we can now identify diaphyte structures in diamond using a simple spectroscopic technique without the need for expensive and laborious electron microscopy,” said study co-author Professor Chris Howard (UCL Physics and Astronomy).

“It should be possible to design materials that are both ultra-stiff and flexible, as well as having tunable electronic properties from a conductor to an insulator,” shared Professor Christoph Salzmann, another co-author of the study. He added that the new discovery opens the door to new carbon materials with exciting mechanical and electronic properties. It is capable of being abrasive and could lead to new applications from electronics to nanomedicine and laser technology.

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