A material that is stiffer than diamond has been created by mixing particles of the mineral barium titanate and molten tin.
They mixed molten tin, heated to about 300ºC, with pieces of a ceramic material called barium titanium - often used as an insulator in electronic components. The particles were each about one-tenth of a millimetre in diameter and were dispersed evenly through the tin using an ultrasonic probe.
Once ingots of the new composite had cooled, rectangular or cylindrical samples 3 centimetres long and 2 millimetres across were tested for stiffness. The response of the samples to bending was tested by gluing one end to a strong support rod and the other to a magnet with a small mirror attached.
The new material could still have useful applications, says Spearing, perhaps for making shock-protective casings. "You might be able to make a tune-able damper that transmits force very well under certain conditions but behaves differently and is softer the rest of the time," he says