18 June 2006

Amorphous Carbonia: a clear future

The Beeb reports a new glass-like substance called Amorphous Carbonia which is made out of dry ice and pressure.

From the article:

It was made by squeezing dry ice, a form of carbon dioxide used to create smoke in stage shows, at huge pressure.
Scientists are interested in the new material because of the potential applications. Also, they believe it could give them clues to the processes that happen in the centre of huge gas giant planets such as Jupiter.

As to progress so far...

To create the glassy amorphous carbonia, the team led by Professors Mario Santoro and Federico Gorelli of the University of Florence heated solid carbon dioxide between diamond teeth at pressures over 400,000 times greater than atmospheric pressure.
The material was then cooled to room temperature to form the glass.
Atomic analysis of the material confirmed the glass had a similar structure to silica, but is thought to be much harder and stiffer, like diamond.
When the material is depressurised, it returns to a solid formed of discrete molecules.
The next stage of the research is to work out how to make the glass stable at room temperature and pressure.

Oof! Four hundred thousand atmospheres is not something one runs up in one’s backyard shed anywhere, but the result is an ultra-tough “glass” and/or transparent coatings for tiny, tiny devices (micro electronics).

Picture — if you will — things the size of watches, cameras or Ogg players whose lenses you can use for knives, cleaning windscreen and other shockingly rugged tasks... “Give me room! I’m a doctor and I need to activate my inherently-sterile bone-cutting glasses...” and there could be some interesting scenes involving burglar-proof windows.

No comments: