20 April 2007

Hardness: When Nothing Else Will Do

Our modern technological lifestyle is dependent upon tools and materials that are very hard. Therefore it is not surprising that materials scientists are focusing on the design of very hard materials.
Diamond powder is used for oil drills and machines that build roads and cut holes in mountains. Diamond cannot be used, however, to cut steel without ruining the diamond blade.

Cubic boron nitride is a diamond substitute used to cut steel; it is made synthetically under very high-temperature, high-pressure conditions, and is even more expensive than diamond, Kaner said.

....At low applied forces, the hardness of rhenium diboride is equivalent to cubic boron nitride, the second-hardest material known, Kaner said. At higher applied forces, rhenium diboride is a little bit below that.

"Our material is hard enough to scratch diamond, and much harder than osmium diboride,” he said.

While other super-hard materials, including diamond and cubic boron nitride, are made under expensive, high-pressure conditions, "our material is made in a simple process without applying pressure,” Kaner said.

With humans likely to expand their domain into outerspace and undersea, stronger and harder materials are mandatory. If humans are ever forced underground for an extended stay--by an inconvenient asteroid, comet, or ice age--stronger and harder materials will likewise be required.

Hat tip Advanced Nanotechnology Blog. You may want to make Advanced Nano one of your daily web stops.


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