Can diamond, the hardest material on earth, be bent?
The question that intrigued scientists for years, now has an answer in the affirmative thanks to nanoengineering, according to Subra Suresh, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the world’s top technologists.
In one of his new cutting-edge research, Suresh and his coworkers created nanoneedles of synthetic diamond of 80-nanometre thickness— one-thousandth time the width of a human hair— and 200-300 nm length.
Such nano-needles were subjected to bending strain using an atomic force microscope in a controlled laboratory environment.
In a series of experiments, the scientists demonstrated how synthetic diamond on a nanoscale can be bent up to a point, opening up completely new frontiers in electronics, microelectronics and nanoengineering.
What Suresh showed with synthetic diamonds was subsequently replicated by a group of Chinese researchers who used natural diamonds. The outcome was the same, bolstering the confidence of the academia and industry.
“The application potential is huge. Diamond is the best semiconductor in the words. It is also biocompatible. But it was completely useless so far because it was too hard to work. The applications in future can range from optoelectronics to silicon cell,” Suresh said at a public lecture at the 107th session of the Indian Science Congress here.
While silicon is the material of choice for the electronics sector, Suresh said that diamonds were far superior compared to silicon and silicon carbide. The behavioural change happens because at the nano-scale, materials behave differently.
Currently, the president of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Suresh said that such technological breakthroughs could lead to the design of new materials that were previously thought impossible. The new science and materials would be the cornerstone of Industry 4.0 where there would be a convergence of physical, digital and biological worlds.
Industry 4.0 is the buzzword in the tech domain around the world in which top corporations and academic institutions strive to find out innovative technological solutions to complex problems that elude easy solutions so far.
It is also a part of the Department of Science and Technology’s Rs 3,660 crore national mission on cyber-physical systems.