Supercomputer suggests ‘super diamonds’ could exist in space

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Diamonds are the hardest natural material on Earth, but a supercomputer just modeled something that’s even harder. Called a “super diamond,” the theoretical material could exist beyond our planet and perhaps, one day, be created here on Earth.

Like regular diamonds, super diamonds are made of carbon atoms. This specific carbon phase, composed of eight atoms, should be stable under ambient conditions. In other words, it could exist in an Earth laboratory.

The specific phase, called BC8, is a high-pressure phase typically found in silicon and germanium. And as the new model suggests, carbon may also exist in this particular phase.

Border—the first and fastest exascale supercomputer—modeled the evolution of billions of carbon atoms under immense pressures. The supercomputer predicted that BC8 carbon is 30% more resistant to compression than simple diamonds. The team’s research describing super hard things was recently published in The journal of physical chemistry letters.

“Despite numerous efforts to synthesize this elusive crystalline carbon phase, including previous National Ignition Fund (NIF) campaigns, it has not yet been observed,” said study co-author Marius Millot, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). ), in a lab release. “But we think it may exist on carbon-rich exoplanets.”

It is not the first potential evidence of the existence of ultrahard materials in the depths of space. In 2022, a team of researchers found evidence that lonsdaleite—a rare form of diamond—may exist in fragments of meteorites that fall to Earth.

Space observatories like the Webb Space Telescope are revealing carbon-rich exoplanets like never before. Beyond Webb, NASA has plans for the Habitable Worlds Observatorya next-generation space telescope that could be operational in the early 2040s.

But scientists are rightly not waiting to get a better look at such distant worlds, especially since superdiamonds would only form in extremely high-pressure environments; that is, in the cores of these exoplanets.

“The extreme conditions that prevail within these carbon-rich exoplanets can give rise to structural forms of carbon such as diamond and BC8,” said Ivan Oleynik, a physicist at the University of South Florida and lead author of the paper, in the same article. release. “Therefore, a deep understanding of the properties of the BC8 carbon phase becomes fundamental for the development of accurate interior models of these exoplanets.”

Perhaps it will be possible to grow these super diamonds in the laboratory environment. Eventually. However, to achieve this, the team must first explore what is possible through LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF), the same facility that achieved a net energy gain in a fusion reaction in 2022, and again last year.

This investigation will be carried out through the NIF. Discovery science program. So when it comes to lab-grown super diamonds, my advice is don’t hold your breath. But things could be heating up in materials science.

Further: Nuclear fusion scientists successfully recreate net energy gain

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