Incredibly strong diamond nanothread promises to be the one-stop material choice

A THREAD showing incredible strength despite being 20,000 times thinner than a human hair is being studied for possible use in electronic devices and bullet-proof vests.

QUT’s Dr Haifei Zhan is leading a global effort to work out how many ways humanity can use a newly-invented material with enormous potential – diamond nanothread (DNT).

Diamond nanothreads (DNT) are only a few atoms across, even thinner than their materials science cousin – carbon nanotubes.

One-dimensional DNT was first created by Pennsylvania State University scientists in the US but is now being fully assessed by Dr Haifei Zhan and his team at Queensland University of Technology’s School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering in Australia.

Zhan plans to test how DNT performs as a two-dimensional networked structure for potential use in flexible electronics and screens and DNT could one day show up in bullet-proof vests.

He told Materials Science that he and his team are expecting a surge in research interest in potential uses for novel carbon materials.

DNT are like carbon nanotubes which are stronger than steel and 10,000 times thinner than human hair. DNT incorporate kinks of hydrogen in the carbon’s hollow structure, called Stone-Wale (SW) transformation defects. Possible applications include new types of plastic, smart clothing and vehicles.

Carbon nanomaterials have become a popular focus for the international research community because they normally have extremely versatile mechanical, chemical, physical and electrical properties.

Zhan added: “Our current work was inspired by the experimental success at Penn State.

“As a new one-dimensional carbon nanomaterial, diamond nanothread shows highly tunable mechanical properties that are not seen in its counterpart – carbon nanotube. The new features of diamond nanothread are expected to enable it to be an appealing candidate for various applications, such as carbon fibres, and nanocomposite reinforcements.”

He also wants to test is viability as a fibre for textiles or rope, from bullet-proof vests and hard-wearing work gear to a replacement for steel cables in bridge construction.