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Q&A

Composite armor based on diamonds, could it work?

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Under normal circumstances, monolithic diamond is pretty terrible at resisting impact, due to it being weak in certain planes, also known as cleavage planes.

To solve this, why don't we just make the diamonds smaller? They'd be much harder to hit on the cleavage plane that way, right?

What I had in mind was 50-80 nanometer diamond plates, arranged into a brickwork-like structure with an elastic polymer connecting them together. So, nacre but made from nanodiamonds instead of calcium carbonate.

Now, cleavage is present on the microscopic level (it arises from the "ideal" molecular structure of the crystal, not the deviations from it), so I don't know if it would work or if it would be better than boron carbide armor.

Would this diamond armor be able to resist firearms more effectively than either silicon carbide or boron carbide?

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Perhaps some Graphene - Diamond composite would be the answer. (1 comment)

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Diamonds are hard, but brittle, and not particularly strong.

Diamond as a basis for armor doesn't make much sense. Brittleness is bad when sudden impact is exactly the stress being defended against.

If you make the individual particles small enough so that their brittleness doesn't matter, then whatever is holding all those particles in place becomes the material whos properties really matter. There might be some dissipation due to the friction between particles, but that takes a large volume to be effective armor. You might as well hold sand in whatever matrix you were going to put the diamonds in.

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