By applying pressure at the nanoscale with an indenter to two layers of graphene, each one-atom thick, CUNY researchers transformed the honeycombed graphene into a diamond-like material at room temperature. Photo credit: Ella Maru Studio

A new material – consisting of two layers graphene – could change the way we look at warfare. Behind the discovery are researchers from the City University of New York.

Graphene has long been hailed as revolutionary. The carbon-based material is very light, strong and durable, but also flexible and a good conductor. Throughout the world and for several years now, researchers are looking at how the new material can be used.

At the New York University, researchers have managed to create a new material that will protect you from bullets. The lightweight material called “Diamene” is made out of two layers of carbon atoms, it is soft as aluminum foil until it is subjected to heavy pressure, then the material changes and becomes harder than diamond.

The material should be strong enough to stop a bullet, the scientists argue. The unusual combination of super hardness and being lightweight makes the material highly relevant to the development of future police and military protection equipment.

More – or fewer – than just two carbon atom layers do not give the same diamond-like properties in terms of hardness, according to the researchers. They used computer simulated tests and then Atomic force microscopy to see how much pressure the material could handle.

“This is the thinnest film with the stiffness and hardness of diamond ever created,”

“Previously, when we tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene, we would apply pressure and feel a very soft film. But when the graphite film was exactly two-layers thick, all of a sudden we realized that the material under pressure was becoming extremely hard and as stiff, or stiffer, than bulk diamond.”

– Elisa Riedo, professor of physics at the ASRC and the project’s lead researcher.

The research team’s successful work opens up possibilities for investigating graphite-to-diamond phase transition in two-dimensional materials, according to the paper. Future research could explore methods for stabilizing the transition and allow for further applications of the resulting materials.

The study, led by Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The City University of New York (CUNY), was published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Yang Gao, Tengfei Cao et al. Ultrahard carbon film from epitaxial two-layer graphene