Diamonds, move over: Scientists make harder, brighter Q-carbon

A new substance, Q-carbon, has been created by scientists. It is even brighter than diamonds. However, it is not for wearing. Its byproducts will be taken as medicine instead.

Diamonds, move over: Scientists make harder, brighter Q-carbon

Story Highlights

Q-carbon is more intense in low light than diamonds and harder.

A laser pulse of 200 billionths a second is used to make it.


Scientists created a substance with a shine even brighter than diamonds. But you probably won't be wearing it. Instead, you'll use its byproducts to make medicine.

Researchers at North Carolina State University created Q-carbon by zapping loose carbon particles with a laser that lasted 200 nanoseconds, a fractional fraction of the time it takes to blink an eye.

It's just 200 billionths, but that's enough heat to raise the temperature of carbon to 3,700 degrees Celsius. This is not much more than the amount of heat that many scientists say was required to form natural diamonds billions of years ago.

Researchers then let the carbon cool, causing its atoms to form a special crystal structure.

It is possible that this substance has never been found on Earth and it has unique properties.

Journal of Applied Physics published the results of their research.

The carbon dioxide problem

Carbon is getting a bad rap as the culprit for global warming. Carbon dioxide is a mixture of carbon and oxygen.

Carbon in its purest form is a very different substance. Carbon only comes in a handful of solid forms that are very different from each other because of the way they're put together.

Look at the "lead." It's not 'lead'; it's graphite. This is a common form of pure carbon.

You can feel the softness of the ink as it slides off your paper.

Diamonds are the bling. The same carbon but a very different crystal structure. According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, it's much tighter and smaller. This makes it the hardest natural substance on Earth.

Diamonds are a beautiful, sparkling stone with a stunning clarity.

Researchers claim that Q-carbon is even more brilliant, and can glow even at the lowest levels of light. It's neither graphite nor diamond.

The brand new thing

Scientists have created an entirely new form of carbon solid that would not otherwise exist on Earth.

Jay Narayan, a researcher at N.C. State University and the lead author of three publications on this innovation, said: "We have now created a new solid phase of carbon." The only place where it could be found naturally would be in the cores of some planets.

It has some unique properties that set it apart from diamonds. It is even harder. It's also ferromagnetic. It can be magnetized.

Researchers say it could be a very valuable material.

The intense glow of the LED could brighten and make clearer electronic displays.

Take your Diamonds

The medical applications are possible because engineers can vary the laser blast in order to create diamond-like structures in Q-carbon.

Narayan stated that 'we can create diamond microneedles and nanoneedles as well as large-area diamond film, which could be used for drug delivery. They could also be produced cheaply.

Cancer drug research is advancing with the use of Nanodiamonds. Drexel University says they are non-toxic and is currently researching the use of these nanodiamonds to deliver anticancer drugs directly into brain tumours.

Why not use the new stuff directly to make them?

Scientists say Q-carbon is a new material and they need to learn more about its properties.