A team of scientists at the Yanshan University in China has formed a new glass-like material named “AM-III” which features ultra-high-strength and wear resistance combined with exceptional mechanical and electronic properties. The most impressive aspect of its physical properties though is that its hardness measurements reached 113 GPa, dwarfing even that of the natural diamond which scores up to 70 GPa.
Through extensive experimentation, the scientists figured that using a combination of order and disorder on the molecular structure of AM-III, exotic results would emerge. Whereas diamonds have a very specific and organized structure which is what gives them their renowned strength, the AM-III inherits its impressive hardness by distributing any forces applied to it on an “ideally chaotic” network of molecules.
Forming the AM-III was a matter of crushing and blending carbon fullerenes, then applying intense heat (1,200 OC) and pressure (25 GPa) in a chamber for 12 hours, and finally letting it cool for another 12 hours. Going any higher on either the temperature or the pressure would result in the material losing its semi-conductivity properties, automatically taking a range of applications out of the market potential equation. Also, the team tested out a large number of different types of “glassy” materials featuring different molecular organizations, but the AM-III was found to have the highest order of atoms and molecules, and the best properties as a result.
The Chinese researchers who developed the AM-III believe that the ideal application for it right now would be as an external glass sheet for solar cells where energy absorption, strength, and wear resistance are key properties. However, the applications would be endless in reality, as a glass that is so hard would be extremely useful in smartphones, vehicles, aerospace, and the most demanding applications one can think of in general.