A giant asteroid collision that once destroyed a dwarf planet resulted in one of the hardest materials in the universe. At least that’s what a team led by Andrew G. suggests today. As the working group reports in “PNAS” magazine, the metal could have been formed by bubbling gases when the pressure inside the dwarf planet suddenly dropped as a result of its destruction. The proposed process is similar to that of industrial vapor deposition; This suggests that the mineral can be artificially grown.
Lonsdaleit, also known as hexagonal diamond, differs from diamond only in its crystal structure, but is probably 60 percent harder. Normally, Lonsdaleit forms during an asteroid collision due to the intense pressure wave from the impact. Although the process can be simulated in the laboratory, the crystals produced in this way have many defects in their structure and therefore do not reach their theoretical hardness. However, if the Australian Working Group’s assumption is correct, there is another way to produce the metal. Because while the hypothesis also assumes a massive effect, the Lonsdaleit here was generated not by the intense shock wave, but by chemical processes.
The carbon-rich urelites are thought to be debris from the deep mantle of a dwarf planet, which explains their unusual structure. As Tomkins and his team argue, this also explains the unusual mixture of graphite, diamond, and londonite found in some of these meteorites. Accordingly, it was formed from graphite already present in the rock. When a large asteroid smashed into the dwarf planet, the pressure and temperature in the exposed mantle rock suddenly dropped rapidly. As a result, volatiles such as hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide flew out of the rocks and reacted with the graphite. Depending on the conditions, other mixtures were created.
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