While studying diamonds inside an ancient meteorite, scientists have found a strange, interwoven microscopic structure that has never been seen before.
The structure, an interlocking form of graphite and diamond, has unique properties that could one day be used to develop superfast charging or new types of electronics, researchers say.
The diamond structures were locked inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite, which slammed into Earth 50,000 years ago and was first discovered in Arizona in 1891. The diamonds in this meteorite aren't the kind most people are familiar with. Most known diamonds were formed (opens in new tab) around 90 miles (150 kilometers) beneath Earth's surface, where temperatures rise to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius). The carbon (opens in new tab) atoms (opens in new tab) within these diamonds are arranged in cubic shapes.
By contrast, the diamonds inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite are known as lonsdaleite — named after British crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, University College London's first female professor — and have a hexagonal crystal structure. These diamonds form only under extremely high pressures and temperatures (opens in new tab). Although scientists have successfully made lonsdaleite in a lab — using gunpowder and compressed air to propel graphite disks 15,000 mph (24,100 km/h) at a wall — lonsdaleite is otherwise formed only when asteroids strike Earth at enormously high speeds.
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