According to a recent study, an old dwarf planet that collided with a massive asteroid 4.5 billion years ago produced a collection of 18 unusual meteorites that include diamonds.
Lonsdaleite, a rare hexagonal super-hard kind of priceless gemstone, is present in the specimens. The finding could contain the secret to developing mining drills that are unbreakable.
The pieces belong to a class of space rocks called ureilites, which make up less than 1% of all space rocks that come to Earth.
The examination of the meteorites could be useful for improving industrial procedures.
As a result, Professor Andy Tomkins, a geologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who is also the main author, stated, “Nature has given us a technique to attempt to imitate in industry.”
If we can create an industrial method that encourages the replacement of pre-shaped graphite pieces with lonsdaleite, we believe lonsdaleite might be utilized to build small, ultra-hard machine parts.
The same carbon atoms that make up the soft graphite in the middle of pencils also produce diamonds. The layout is the sole distinction.
Flat sheets are kept together by weak attractive forces between each layer to create graphite.
But in diamonds, the carbon atoms are bonded together in a very solid form known as a “tetrahedron.” They are made much harder by the deep relationships that go along with them.
Even yet, under sufficient pressure, it does crack and disintegrates. A crystal can become weaker due to minute defects, which increases the diamond’s susceptibility to disintegration.
With lonsdaleite, ureilite meteorites from the dwarf planet’s mantle do not experience this. It may be tougher than cubically crystalline normal diamonds because of their hexagonal structure. Professor Dougal McCulloch of Melbourne’s RMIT University, the study’s senior author, claims that it “categorically confirms that lonsdaleite exists in nature.” The biggest lonsdaleite crystals to date that we have found are up to a micron in size, which is far smaller than a human hair.
According to the multinational team, manufacturing might see significant advances because to their peculiar shape.
They took “snapshots” of how lonsdaleite and normal diamonds originated using cutting-edge electron scanners to acquire solid, entire slices.
According to McCulloch, there is “strong evidence” that lonsdaleite and conventional diamonds were formed using a previously unknown technique.
The shape and textures of the pre-existing graphite were thought to have been nearly fully preserved when lonsdaleite was thought to have been produced at high temperature and moderate pressure.
Later, when the atmosphere cooled and the pressure dropped, diamond largely replaced lonsdaleite, according to Tomkins.
It clarifies a long-standing question of how carbon phases form in ureilites.
According to the findings, all ureilite meteorites originated from the same proto-planet. It also supports the idea that the planets of today were created from the remains of these early planets.
The pioneering British crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, the first female fellow of the Royal Society, an organization of eminent scientists, is honored with the term Lonsdaleite.
The research was released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publication on September 12.