Nav: Home

Finding alternatives to diamonds for drilling

July 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2019 -- Diamonds aren't just a girl's best friend -- they're also crucial components for hard-wearing industrial components, such as the drill bits used to access oil and gas deposits underground. But a cost-efficient method to find other suitable materials to do the job is on the way.

Diamond is one of the only materials hard and tough enough for the job of constant grinding without significant wear, but as any imminent proposee knows, diamonds are pricey. High costs drive the search for new hard and superhard materials. However, the experimental trial-and-error search is itself expensive.

A simple and reliable way to predict new material properties is needed to facilitate modern technology development. Using a computational algorithm, Russian theorists have published just such a predictive tool in the Journal of Applied Physics, from AIP Publishing.

"Our study outlines a picture that can guide experimentalists, showing them the direction to search for new hard materials," said the study's first author Alexander Kvashnin, from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

As fiber optics, with its fast transmission rate, replaced copper wire communications, so too do materials scientists search to find new materials with desirable properties to support modern technology. When it comes to the mining, space and defense industries, it's all about finding materials that don't break easily, and for that, the optimal combination of hardness and fracture toughness is required. But it's tricky to theoretically predict hardness and fracture toughness. Kvashnin explained that although lots of predictive models exist, he estimates they are 10%-15% out off the mark at best.

The Russian team recently developed a computational approach that considers all possible combinations of elements in Dmitri Mendeleev's periodic table -- christened "Mendelevian search." They've used their algorithm to search for optimal hard and tough materials.

By combining their toughness prediction model with two well-known models for material hardness, the scientists' algorithm learned which regions of chemical space of compounds were most promising for tough, hard phases that could be easily synthesized.

Results were plotted on a "treasure map" of toughness vs. hardness, and the scientists were impressed by what they saw. All known hard materials were predicted with more than 90% accuracy. This proved the search's predictive power, and the newly revealed combinations are potential treasures for industry.

Kvashnin explained he is part of an industrial project devoted to new materials for drilling bits, where experimentalists are now synthesizing one of these hard material treasures -- tungsten pentaboride (WB5).

"This computational search is a potential way to optimize the search for new materials, much cheaper, faster and quite accurately," said Kvashnin, who hopes that this new approach will enable the speedy development of new materials with enhanced properties.

But they aren't stopping there with the theory. They want to use their modern methods and approaches to pin down the general rules for what makes hard and superhard materials among the elements to better guide researchers of the future.
The article, "Computational discovery of hard and superhard materials," is authored by Alexander G. Kvashnin, Zahed Allahyari and Artem R. Oganov. The article will appear in the Journal of Applied Physics on July 23, 2019 (DOI: 10.1063/1.5109782). After that date, it can be accessed at


The Journal of Applied Physics is an influential international journal publishing significant new experimental and theoretical results of applied physics research. See

American Institute of Physics

Related Algorithm Articles:

A new algorithm predicts the difficulty in fighting fire
The tool completes previous studies with new variables and could improve the ability to respond to forest fires.
New algorithm predicts optimal materials among all possible compounds
Skoltech researchers have offered a solution to the problem of searching for materials with required properties among all possible combinations of chemical elements.
New algorithm to help process biological images
Skoltech researchers have presented a new biological image processing method that accurately picks out specific biological objects in complex images.
Skoltech scientists break Google's quantum algorithm
In the near term, Google has devised new quantum enhanced algorithms that operate in the presence of realistic noise.
The most human algorithm
A team from the research group SEES:lab of the Department of Chemical Engineering of the Universitat Rovira I Virgili and ICREA has made a breakthrough with the development of a new algorithm that makes more accurate predictions and generates mathematical models that also make it possible to understand these predictions.
Algorithm turns cancer gene discovery on its head
Prediction method could help personalize cancer treatments and reveal new drug targets.
New algorithm predicts gestational diabetes
Timely prediction may help prevent the condition using nutritional and lifestyle changes.
New algorithm could mean more efficient, accurate equipment for Army
Researchers working on an Army-funded project have developed an algorithm to simulate how electromagnetic waves interact with materials in devices to create equipment more efficiently and accurately.
Universal algorithm set to boost microscopes
EPFL scientists have developed an algorithm that can determine whether a super-resolution microscope is operating at maximum resolution based on a single image.
Algorithm designed to map universe, solve mysteries
Cornell University researchers have developed an algorithm designed to visualize models of the universe in order to solve some of physics' greatest mysteries.
More Algorithm News and Algorithm Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.