New supermaterials such as synthetic diamonds will revolutionise a wide array of industries, such as by making the smartphone in your pocket less prone to smashes and the quantum supercomputers of the future able to run more efficiently.
Toughened smartphone screen glass has become stronger in recent years, but it still shatters relatively easily when dropped, and their replacement is the most common smartphone repair job. Today, most smartphones use Corning’s toughened Gorilla Glass for their screens (and sometimes backs as well), but next year at least one smartphone is likely to come with a diamond screen – with properties that far outclass toughened glass or sapphire crystal, which should mean far fewer breakages.
Firms like Debeers have kept the price of natural diamonds incredibly high over the years, to the extent few people will have a diamond on anything other than a wedding ring. But diamonds can now be grown synthetically in the lab, and this means we have already seen a dramatic growth in the number of applications for the material, and it will be coming to consumer electronics very soon.
As laid out in a recent publication from Element Six, synthetic diamond can withstand extreme conditions, with polycrystalline diamond (PCD) already in use in drill bits designed for cutting through rock for the oil and gas industry and for cutting through the super strong Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) composites used in aircraft manufacture. It can also be manufactured to have an ultra-fine edge for extreme precision purposes such as in surgical tools, and has the widest spectral band of any known material – which makes them the perfect supermaterial for the smartphone displays of tomorrow.
Beyond the humble smartphone, silicon-laced diamonds could even provide the basis for the future of quantum computing, with atom-scale defects used to store quantum bits that hold contradictory data (such as both on and off) in a way that lets you read the data without the risk of changing it. The technology is not ready for prime-time just yet, but researchers from Harvard University say that practical examples will soon be within reach.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but synthetic diamonds are far more useful.
Photograph by Colin00b