Lonsdaleite

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Lonsdaleite (named in honour of Kathleen Lonsdale), also called hexagonal diamond in reference to the crystal structure, is an allotrope of carbon with a hexagonal lattice. In nature, it forms when meteorites containing graphite strike the Earth. The great heat and stress of the impact transforms the graphite into diamond, but retains graphite's hexagonal crystal lattice. Lonsdaleite was first identified in 1967 from the Canyon Diablo meteorite, where it occurs as microscopic crystals associated with diamond [1][2]

Hexagonal diamond has also been synthesized in the laboratory (1966 or earlier; published in 1967)[3] by compressing and heating graphite either in a static press or using explosives.[4] It has also been produced by chemical vapor deposition,[5][6][7] and also by the thermal decomposition of a polymer, poly(hydridocarbyne), at atmospheric pressure, under argon atmosphere, at temperature 110 °C (230 °F).[8][9]

It is translucent, brownish-yellow in color, and has an index of refraction of 2.40 to 2.41, a specific gravity of 3.2 to 3.3, and a Mohs hardness of 7–8.[10] The Mohs hardness of diamond is 10, and the lower hardness of lonsdaleite is chiefly attributed to impurities and imperfections in the naturally occurring material. A simulated pure sample has been found to be 58% harder than diamond.[11]

Contents

Properties

Lonsdaleite has a hexagonal unit cell, related to the diamond unit cell in the same way that the hexagonal and cubic close packed crystal systems are related. The diamond structure can be considered to be made up of interlocking rings of six carbon atoms, in the chair conformation. In lonsdaleite, some of the rings are in the boat conformation instead. In diamond, all the carbon-to-carbon bonds, both within a layer of rings and between them, are in the staggered conformation, thus causing all four cubic-diagonal directions to be equivalent; while in lonsdaleite the bonds between layers are in the eclipsed conformation, which defines the axis of hexagonal symmetry.

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