Superman can famously make a diamond by crushing a chunk of coal in his hand, but Rice University scientists are employing a different tactic.
Rice materials scientists are making nanodiamonds and other forms of carbon by smashing nanotubes against a target at high speeds. Nanodiamonds won’t make anyone rich, but the process of making them will enrich the knowledge of engineers who design structures that resist damage from high-speed impacts.
Ref: Ballistic Fracturing of Carbon Nanotubes. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (28 August 2016) | DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b07547
Advanced materials with multifunctional capabilities and high resistance to hypervelocity impact are of great interest to the designers of aerospace structures. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with their lightweight and high strength properties are alternative to metals and/or metallic alloys conventionally used in aerospace applications. Here we report a detailed study on the ballistic fracturing of CNTs for different velocity ranges. Our results show that the highly energetic impacts cause bond breakage and carbon atom rehybridizations, and sometimes extensive structural reconstructions were also observed. Experimental observations show the formation of nanoribbons, nanodiamonds and covalently interconnected nanostructures, depending on impact conditions. Fully atomistic reactive molecular dynamics simulations were also carried out in order to gain further insights into the mechanism behind the transformation of CNTs. The simulations show that the velocity and relative orientation of the multiple colliding nanotubes are critical to determine the impact outcome.