Scientists have discovered a new solid carbon phase dubbed Q-carbon, which can be used to create diamond structures at both regular atmospheric pressure and room temperatures. Q-carbon itself is harder than diamond, but also too new for use in common applications. As such, researchers have developed a specific method to create diamond structures within the Q-carbon, the uses for which are both extensive and varied.
The discovery was made by North Carolina State University researchers. Q-carbon is a new phase of solid carbon that differs from the diamond phase and the graphite phase. This third solid phase isn’t exactly common; the lead author of papers describing the carbon says, “The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some plants.”
Unlike graphite and diamond, Q-carbon glows when exposed to energy – even low levels of energy — and it is also ferromagnetic. Because of some of its features, the researchers say the new carbon phase could be used to create new display technologies, among other things. Using a laser and controlled cooling, the researchers were able to create diamond structures within the carbon, with the process proving inexpensive, relatively speaking.
According to lead author Jay Narayan, “We can create diamond nanoneedles or microneedles, nanodots, or large-area diamond films, with applications for drug delivery, industrial processes and for creating high-temperature switches and power electronics.” Patents related to the technology have been filed.