There are still many mysteries for science to solve. But forming a very specific type of diamond is no longer one of them. Researchers explain how it could be formed by encountering an asteroid with a dwarf planet.
Lonsdaleite is a somewhat special form of diamond. In fact, the carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagonal shape. While those classic diamonds are cubic. It was discovered in 1967, in meteor crater (United States), the crater of the volcano was formed by the fall of a meteorite named Canyon Diablo, nearly 50,000 years ago. Today, some Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT, Australia) has finally succeeded in proving that lonsdaleite does indeed exist in its natural state.
To do this, the researchers used advanced electron microscopy techniques with which they were able to study solid, intact slices of a rare type of rocky meteorite, urelite. what we collect “Strong evidence that there is a natural formation process for lonsdaleite similar to what physicists do when making diamonds in a laboratory.”. A type of chemical vapor deposition in the core of space rock.
Make the material harder than diamond
But to form lonsdaleite, it is necessary to start from a supercritical liquid, at high temperature and moderate pressures. To maintain the shape and texture of the initial graphite. Only when the environment cools down and the pressure drops is lonsdaleite partially replaced by traditional diamond. A process that could have occurred in our solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, shortly after a large asteroid collided with a dwarf planet.
Lonsdaleite’s hexagonal structure can make the material 60% more hard than traditional diamond. So the researchers hope to find, in nature, a process they can exploit industrially to make, from preformed, extra-rigid bits of graphite. Lowercase letters? Yes, because the largest lonsdaleite crystal that researchers have found so far does not exceed one micron. This is much less than…the thickness of a human hair!
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