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Synthesis of Ultra-Incompressible Superhard Rhenium Diboride at Ambient Pressure

Science  20 Apr 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5823, pp. 436-439
DOI: 10.1126/science.1139322

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Abstract

The quest to create superhard materials rarely strays from the use of high-pressure synthetic methods, which typically require gigapascals of applied pressure. We report that rhenium diboride (ReB2), synthesized in bulk quantities via arc-melting under ambient pressure, rivals materials produced with high-pressure methods. Microindentation measurements on ReB2 indicated an average hardness of 48 gigapascals under an applied load of 0.49 newton, and scratch marks left on a diamond surface confirmed its superhard nature. Its incompressibility along the c axis was equal in magnitude to the linear incompressibility of diamond. In situ high-pressure x-ray diffraction measurements yielded a bulk modulus of 360 gigapascals, and radial diffraction indicated that ReB2 is able to support a remarkably high differential stress. This combination of properties suggests that this material may find applications in cutting when the formation of carbides prevents the use of traditional materials such as diamond.

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