Key diamond-pencil structural link points to major health, technology advances: Aussie research

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-19 14:47:20|Editor: Chengcheng
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SYDNEY, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Australian scientists on Saturday said they have used computers to uncover a crucial structural link between diamonds and pencils, pointing to a major step in material analysis with huge implications for future technologies ranging from mobile communications to medical treatment.

Griffith University and University of New South Wales researchers tapped the computers to show that the diamond structure of commonly used compound boron-nitride is more stable than the graphite structure of a pencil, according to their statement.

Carbon has two chemical neighbors, boron and nitrogen, which together act very much like carbon on its own, said the researchers. The resulting boron-nitride compound also comes in diamond and graphite forms, which are like carbon in some ways but dramatically different in others.

"The problem is, experiments struggle to differentiate which of the two forms is more stable, and at what temperature they swap," said Griffith University's Dr. Tim Gould.

"We were able to solve this problem by using supercomputers ... to understand the stability of the two pristine structures," said Gould.

"We used cutting-edge theoretical methods that were able to achieve a level of precision even better than experimental work, which involved the challenging task of turning diamonds into pencils. We were thus able to answer the questions that experiments could not," he said.

The latest findings, which were published in scientific journal Sciences Advances, has direct implications for how boron-nitride compounds can be used in various technologies, according to the researchers.

The study also means new material design can increasingly be automated using computers, which can "churn through thousands of compounds in the time it would take several people to make one compound in a laboratory," they said.

"Before long mobile phones will have materials that were invented on a computer. Eventually, it could allow drugs to be tailor-made for a specific person and illness," according to the researchers.