A wonder material as flexible as tinfoil but hard enough to stop a speeding bullet has been created in the lab.
Diamene is made using two layers of graphene, the world’s first two-dimensional material which is just one atom thick, a million times thinner than human hair.
Such a substance could be used for anything from water-resistant protective coatings to ultra-light bulletproof armour.
A study led by the City University of New York’ (CUNY) Advanced Science Research Center revealed how placing one piece of graphene on top of another at room temperature produced a diamond-like material.
Diamene is soft and flexible until it is put under pressure, when it becomes extremely rigid.
That means, if it was shot by a bullet, it would stop it passing through.
The properties of the material were first dreamt up in computer simulations, created as part of the study.
Experts then used an atomic force microscope to apply pressure to a two layer thick graphene matrix to test out their theory, which the technique confirmed.
The diamond-like properties were only found to emerge with exactly two layers, the team says.
In a statement on the CUNY website, lead researcher and physics professor Elisa Riedo said: ‘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.’
Graphene, which comes from graphite, has been viewed as a miracle material after it was initially discovered in 2004 by researchers at The University of Manchester, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov.
The discovery won the pair the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.
Since then the material has been proposed for use in renewable energy and night vision goggles.
Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon atoms bound in a hexagonal network.
It not only promises to revolutionize semiconductor, sensor, and display technology, but could also lead to breakthroughs in fundamental quantum physics research.
It is often depicted as an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds.
Scientists believe it could one day be used to make transparent conducting materials, biomedical sensors and even extremely light, yet strong, aircraft of the future.
Similar to another important nanomaterial, carbon nanotubes, graphene is incredibly strong – around 200 times stronger than structural steel.
Angelo Bongiorno, another member of the CUNY research team, added: ‘Graphite and diamonds are both made entirely of carbon, but the atoms are arranged differently in each material, giving them distinct properties such as hardness, flexibility and electrical conduction.
‘Our new technique allows us to manipulate graphite so that it can take on the beneficial properties of a diamond under specific conditions.’
The full findings of the study were published in the Naure journal Nanotechnology .