Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 17, 2021

Future potential of diamond nanothreads

By NICITA MEHTA | November 17, 2016


BERNSWAELZ/CC0 PUBLIC DOMAIN In the future, diamond nanotheads could be used to make steel cables even stronger.

As the most abundant element on the planet, carbon has consistently demonstrated its incredible diversity and seemingly infinite potential applications. In fact, a recent report by a team of chemists and engineers of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has described the synthesis of a new, versatile material they call “diamond nanothread” (DNT).

Originally created by scientists at Pennsylvania State University, diamond nanothread is a one-dimensional carbon-based nanostructure that they claim to be “stronger than steel” with “relatively easy functionalization.”

It showcases a variety of appealing applications, particularly in manufacturing. In fact, one of the scientists, Haifei Zhan, likened its diversity in use to that of plastic, with potential uses ranging from everyday consumer products to elite technologies.

The creation of this nanothread represents an achievement in large-scale molecular dynamics simulation and high-performance computing. Its synthesis process is defined by subjecting liquid benzene to extreme pressures followed by slow relief of pressure, resulting in the formation of thin, tight rings of carbon.

The arrangement of the carbon atoms in the thread’s functional form after the synthesis process resembles diamonds in the actual arrangement of its atoms, hence the name “diamond nanothread.”

The structure imparts a unique and impressive strength. This strength is what the researchers of QUT see as an opportunity for innovation. Furthermore, its remarkable size is defined by only a few atoms across. For perspective, this is almost 20,000 times thinner than the average human hair strand.

Diamond nanothread is unlike any other artificial carbon-based material. The field currently regards carbon nanotubes as the greatest candidate for potential in consumer products, but the scientists at QUT may think otherwise.

“While both carbon nanotubes and DNT have great potential, the more I model DNT properties, the more it looks to be a superior material,” Zhan said in a press release.

Simply, the diamond nanothread possesses properties that exceed the capabilities and functions of other biomaterials in the same class.

Currently, researchers are in the midst of comprehensive efforts to characterize the properties of this material. Doing so will better inform the potential routes of application as well as assist in understanding how to maximize its performance in each context.

Recent data from their studies demonstrate strong thermal conductivity, high affinity associations with polymers and impressive tensile strength. These properties appeal to various possible avenues to make ultra-strong, light-weight composites and components.

The list of possible products includes plane fuselages, flexible electronics and screens, hard-wearing gear and even a replacement for steel cables used in bridge construction.

However, the potential of diamond nanothreads has fed the creativity of these individual engineers. Researchers are starting to include diamond nanothreads in plans for building a space elevator. Innovations such as these only invite engineers and inventors to indulge their imagination with the support of these diamond nanothreads.

Future prospects include the use of the diamond nanothread in many possible settings: Everyday items, large-scale projects and cutting edge technologies could one day be made from this versatile material.

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