United Press International reports ("Superhard electrical crystal carbon film", 25 January 2002) that Japanese scientists have made very thin crystalline films of carbon, nearly as hard as diamond but many times more electrically conductive, which they hope will have practical use in nanometer-scale electronics.
According to the report, the researchers created a form of carbon possessing both diamond bonds and weaker, sp2 bonds — the type found in graphite and some fullerenes. This hybrid film is an intricate lattice made up of fine nanocrystalline sheets of carbon atoms linked to each other in graphite bonds whose edges rise up from a surface about 45 nanometers. In turn, these sheets are bonded together with diamond-like bonds. According to the researchers, the carbon film is almost as hard as diamond, but its electrical conductivity is 19 orders of magnitude larger than diamond's. This makes the films about as electrically conductive as the chemically modified semiconductors used in microchips. The process for creating the hybrid diamondoid films occurs at room temperature.