N UNL Research Report 2012-2013
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Research Highlights

New Material Dents Diamonds

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Hui Li and Xiao Cheng Zeng

Diamonds are the hardest known material − at least they used to be. A research team that included UNL’s Xiao Cheng Zeng, Ameritas University Professor of Chemistry, has created a new form of matter so hard it can even dent diamonds. The recipe involves crushing buckyballs, well-ordered carbon structures resembling nano-sized soccer balls, under extremely high pressure. The magic ingredient is a solvent related to benzene that allows the buckyballs to collapse while maintaining an ordered structure. Zeng and postdoctoral researcher Hui Li used supercomputers at UNL’s Holland Computing Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to perform large-scale quantum molecular dynamics simulations to provide atomic insight into the material. The ability to preserve the super-hard, high-pressure structure in ambient conditions may provide important future practical applications, Zeng said. The discovery was reported in Science.

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