This Material Wouldn't Melt, Even at the Centre of the Earth

By Bryan Lufkin on at

Researchers have discovered a material that could break the record for the highest melting point of any substance, ever.

The Brown University engineers found that a combination of hafnium, nitrogen, and carbon, in just the right amounts, could withstand 4,400 kelvins, or around 4,120°C. To give you an idea, that’s two-thirds the temperature of the sun’s surface. The outer core of the Earth can hit 4,300 kelvins, for further mind-blowing reference.

The team figured this out through a series of computer simulations that “[infer] melting points by simulating physical processes at the atomic level”. The results were published in the journal Physical Review B.

Possible uses (other, of course, than a ship that bores into the Earth’s core) include high performance heat shields. According to a release from Brown:

The work could ultimately point toward new high-performance materials for a variety of uses, from plating for gas turbines to heat shields on high-speed aircraft. But whether the HfN0.38C0.51 compound itself will be a useful material isn’t clear.

The next step, which scientists are already tackling: Actually synthesising the material and experimenting in a lab. Journey to the centre of the Earth TBD. [Brown via Gizmag]

Image via: Van de Walle lab/Brown University