There is a new substance that is harder than diamond. It's called Q-carbon, and it was created by researchers at North Carolina State University.
"The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets," Jay Narayan, lead author on the papers describing the work, said in a statement.
Before its discovery, there were two distinct forms of solid carbon: graphite and diamond. Q-carbon is not only harder than diamond, but also glows when exposed to low levels of energy. That could make it very useful for creating strong, bright screens for electronic devices.
Researchers created the Q-carbon by blasting material covered in amorphous carbon (i.e. carbon without a crystalline structure) with a single laser pulse.
They can cool the material to create either Q-carbon or tiny diamonds. Those diamonds could be used to build things such as microneedles for medical use, or electronics that can withstand extremely high temperatures for other industries.
"And it is all done at room temperature and at ambient atmosphere — we're basically using a laser like the ones used for laser eye surgery," Narayan said. "So, not only does this allow us to develop new applications, but the process itself is relatively inexpensive."