Melbourne: Diamond nanothreads may be used tomake clothes, electronics and construction materials in the future, scientists have claimed. Researchers are working out how many ways humanity can use diamond nanothread (DNT).
First created by Pennsylvania State University last year, one-dimensional DNT is similar to carbon nanotubes, hollow cylindrical tubes 10,000 times smaller than human hair, stronger than steel – but brittle.
“DNT, by comparison, is even thinner, incorporating kinks of hydrogen in the carbon’s hollow structure, called Stone-Wale (SW) transformation defects, which I’ve discovered reduces brittleness and adds flexibility,” said Haifei Zhan, from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia.
“That structure makes DNT a great candidate for a range of uses. It’s possible DNT may become as ubiquitous a plastic in the future, used in everything from clothing to cars,” said Zhan.
DNT does not look like a rock diamond. Rather, its name refers to the way the carbon atoms are packed together, similar to diamond, giving it its phenomenal strength.
“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.
“My simulations have shown that the SW defects act like hinges, connecting straight sections of DNT. And by changing the spacing of those defects, we can a change or tune the flexibility of the DNT,” said Zhan.
“Carbon is the most abundant element on the planet. It’s a renewable resource, so the cost of the raw material is extremely low,” he said.
“Once the manufacturing costs are viable, DNT would likely be used primarily in mechanical applications, combined with other materials to make ultra-strong, light-weight composites and components – such as plane fuselages,” Zhan said.
“I plan to test how DNT performs as a two-dimensional networked structure – a sheet or layer – for potential use in flexible electronics and screens,” he said.
“I also want to test its viability as a fibre for textiles or rope, from bullet-proof vests and hard-wearing work gear to a replacement for steel cables in bridge construction,” Zhan said.
“There’s already talk in the global carbon community of DNT being the best candidate yet for building a space elevator,” he said. The research was published in the journal Nanoscale.