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Normally an insulator, diamond becomes a metallic conductor when subjected to large strain in a new theoretical model

diamond
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Long known as the hardest of all natural materials, diamonds are also exceptional thermal conductors and electrical insulators. Now, researchers have discovered a way to tweak tiny needles of diamond in a controlled way to transform their electronic properties, dialing them from insulating, through semiconducting, all the way to highly conductive, or metallic. This can be induced dynamically and reversed at will, with no degradation of the diamond material.


The research, though still at an early proof-of-concept stage, may open up a wide array of potential applications, including new kinds of broadband solar cells, highly efficient LEDs and power electronics, and new optical devices or quantum sensors, the researchers say.

Their findings, which are based on simulations, calculations, and previous experimental results, are reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is by MIT Professor Ju Li and graduate

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