Most people think of diamonds as little more than a pretty gem.
But in fact diamond is a multi-functional material with numerous useful properties. For instance, the hardness of diamond makes it very useful in the creation of cutting implements for certain materials. Diamond's ability to resist high pressures makes them suitable for high pressure experimentation using a "diamond anvil." Plus, some forms of diamond have proven to be good semi-conductors of electricity. Even superconductivity in diamonds has been observed under the right, laboratory induced conditions.
Arthur C Clarke, in the epilogue to 2061: Odyssey Three, imagines a future Earth in the year 3001, where human beings have harvested diamond from other solar bodies and used that massive influx of material to create superstructures like space stations and a space elevator.
Clarke's imagined diamond construction was based on the creation of a super-thin layer of diamond which was used to cover and reinforce the various superstructures. This super thin layer of diamond allowed for an imagined explosion in human technological development.
In real life, such a thin, essentially "two dimensional" layer of diamond has not yet been confirmed to exist - but now there is indirect evidence of just that kind of material.
Research published in the journal Nature Communications reports on the creation, and spectroscopic observation of a two dimensional form of diamond, which the paper dubs "Diamondene." This initial, indirect observation of Diamondene was achieved by using Raman spectroscopy to analyze the results of pressing two single atom thin layers of graphene together in an extremely high pressure environment. What does all that mean?
Graphene is a perpetually incipient miracle material which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a specific, super strong matrix. High quality graphene is exceedingly hard to produce - but when it has been produced in labs and tested it has some incredible physical properties - super strong, malleable and super conductive to name a few.
What the researchers did in this study is take two small samples of graphene and, under extremely high pressure, squeezed them together. Then they shined a laser at the resulting material and analyzed the light that resulted from the interaction of that laser with the new material. After interpreting those results, they concluded that they had created something entirely new - namely a nearly two dimensional layer of diamond they call Diamondene.
This could be a big deal! Diamondene would have the potential to be a materials game changer, possibly realizing some of the astounding achievements imagined by Arthur C Clarke forty years ago. The researchers themselves imagine possible applications in superconductivity, quantum computing, micro electronics and biosensors, to name a few.
However, we are still a number of steps away from any real life applications. The next step is to directly observe the physical structure of the diamondene by using "X-ray or electron diffraction techniques performed under high-pressure conditions." Once the diamondene is confirmed to physically exist, we are still some distance away from being able to produce large quantities with high quality.
But as with all progress, material science is incremental, and this research is a necessary prerequisite for a diamondene encrusted future.
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Nature Communications 8, Article number: 96 - 2017 - "Raman evidence for pressure-induced formation of diamondene" - Luiz Gustavo Pimenta Martins, Matheus J. S. Matos, Alexandre R. Paschoal, Paulo T. C. Freire, Nadia F. Andrade, Acrísio L. Aguiar, Jing Kong, Bernardo R. A. Neves, Alan B. de Oliveira, Mário S.C. Mazzoni, Antonio G. Souza Filho & Luiz Gustavo Cançado
By Swamibu http://flickr.com/photos/swamibu/1182138940/ CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons