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Heroes

There's a material that's harder than diamonds. Scientists have discovered it.

Carbon.

Photo by p.Gordon/Flickr.


The Hoagy Carmichael of elements.

No Gershwin or Mercer, but did you know he wrote "Heart and Soul"? Photo by NBC Television/Wikimedia Commons.

Not as essential as oxygen.

Breathe, dammit, breathe! Enjoy. That. Crisp. Fall. Day. To. Its. Fullest. Photo via iStock.

Not as flashy as hydrogen.

Oooooh, the humanity! Photo by Gus Pasquarella/Wikimedia Commons.

Carbon just kinda ... is.

And for billions of years, it came in just two pretty boring solid forms.

Graphite is one form.

Take out your No. 2 pencils, kids. Are you feeling the thrill yet? Photo by Juliancolton/Wikimedia Commons.

Diamonds are the other.

Super exciting! But also, a little basic. Photo by Simon Depolo/Flickr.

But turns out, there's a third solid form of carbon.

And a group of scientists at North Carolina State University recently whipped up the first batch of it in all of history.

It's called Q-carbon, and unlike your average workaday carbon, it's kind of exciting.

Microdiamonds created from Q-carbon. Photo by North Carolina State University.

Not only is it rare — while it theoretically could exist in nature, thus far there's no proof that it does. According to the study's lead author Jay Narayan, "The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets."

Why is it exciting?

Until this, diamond was the hardest natural material known to man.

According to the researchers, Q-carbon is even harder than diamond. It also emits electrons like whoa, which makes it uniquely suited for use in developing cutting-edge TV screens and tablet and smartphone displays — perhaps even making your phone so internally resilient that, should you drop it off a grain silo...

...you can feel secure enough that it didn't break that you won't plunge to your death after it.

It can also be used to create diamonds at room temperature.

Most of the currentprocesses for creating synthetic diamonds require extremely high heat. The most popular ones certainly do. The NC State University researchers were able to develop diamond structures within Q-carbon in a process akin to laser eye surgery — all at a normal human temperature and pressure.

Not exactly like this. But, you know. This general ... idea. Photo via the Smithsonian Archives.

The researchers suggest that creating diamond objects this way could have huge medical benefits — making delivering drugs in the human body easier — and aid in certain industrial processes.

While there's no word yet on whether commercial diamonds could be created this way too, any diamond acquisition process that involves not digging them out of the Earth is a good thing.

It's a hugely cool development, and the scientists deserve a big hats off.

But perhaps, most importantly...

Good job, carbon.

And "Georgia on my Mind." Are you kidding me?

You're finally getting your due.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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