Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring stone on the planet. However, now, girls’ best friend might see some serious competition. A new variety of diamond from outer space is challenging the hardness of the diamond found on earth. Identified by a unique hexagonal pattern, the “folded diamond,” or lonsdaleite, has been discovered by scientists in a Northwest region of Africa.
According to Newsweek, the folded diamond is hardly a new discovery. Scientists originally became aware of the rare stone embedded in meteorite samples from outer space half a century ago. However, until now, folded diamonds have only been found in extremely microscopic amounts. Experts have extracted samples from meteorites only measuring nanometers in size. Per the outlet, the newly found folded diamond is 1,000 times the size of crystals uncovered before.
Above all else then, it’s the sheer size of the new discovery that makes the outer space rock unique.
That being said, scientists’ latest discovery is unique for another reason. The lonsdaleite could very well surpass naturally occurring diamonds in hardness. Until now, no other natural stone or mineral has unseated the coveted stone before.
Potential Uses for the Folded Diamond
Alan Salek, a Ph.D. student at Royal Melbourne University of Technology (RMIT) in Australia and a member of the research team, shared his excitement about their latest outer space discovery.
“It’s really exciting because there were some people in the field who doubted whether this material even existed.”
The mineral’s discovery is also noteworthy for commercial reasons. Nick Wilson, another member of the research team, said the outer space stone could help further improve the production of diamonds here on Earth, which would then improve the integrity of diamond-based materials, such as high-end chainsaw blades.
Speaking about the lonsdaleite stone, Wilson said, “nature appears to have given us clues on how to make shaped ultra-hard micro machine parts. If we can find a way to replicate the process preserved in the meteorites, we can make these machine parts by replacement of pre-shaped graphite with lonsdaleite.”
How a Stone Harder Than Diamonds Came to Exist in Outer Space
The history behind the outer space stone’s creation is as interesting as its physical properties.
Per the outlet, scientists believe the folded diamond originated due to a collision in space billions of years ago.
The team researching the stone believes the lonsdaleite was created in a high-energy cosmic collision 4.5 billion years ago. It’s likely the collision involved either a dwarf planet or a “very large” asteroid.
In considering the actual process of creation, heat and pressure would have “folded” graphite within the planet or asteroid’s crust. That would have then resulted in a mix of fluid and gas. That combination would then have been released and left the folded diamond behind.