Tungsten Pentaboride Can Replace Diamonds for Drilling Purposes

Image result for oil and gas drill with diamond drill bit

Often, when an individual hears the word diamond, a vision of love and an engagement ring is what first comes to mind. If the first picture is not an engagement ring, then it is typically of another piece of expensive jewelry. Therefore, it comes a shock to most people to hear that, in reality, three-quarters of the world’s supply of natural diamonds is used for industrial purposes, and only one-quarter is used in created fine jewelry.

The diamond’s chemical composition makes it the hardest known natural or synthetic material. As a result, diamonds are often incorporated into the design of industrial drills and cutting saws. The hardness of diamonds also gives them a much longer life span than other materials used in making drilling tools. Therefore, tools made with diamonds last longer. Diamonds are also invaluable due to their thermal stability.

Industrial strength diamonds are put in the hollow end of a drill bit and are then used to cut away rock or other material of any strength. Diamonds make the drilling process more accurate, while increasing the longevity of the equipment.

Diamond drilling is one form of core drilling that incorporates a rotary drill along with an attached diamond drill bit to form precisely measured holes. These diamond drill bits can be used to create openings in a wide range of materials. Water runs through the drive shaft in order to keep workspaces free of dust.

Diamonds remain a critical component for industrial applications such as drilling for oil and gas deposits. However, they also remain an extremely costly component. Looking for suitable alternatives, which has traditionally been done through the use of trial-and-error experiments, has also proven to be quite costly. However, that is about to change as a new, more cost-efficient method is being developed.

Image result for oil and gas drill with diamond drill bit

Alexander Kvashnin and a Russian research team have published a computational algorithm that predicts the properties of new materials. The idea behind the algorithm is to find strong materials with the right combination of fracture toughness and hardness to stand up under the strongest of pressures. This algorithm looked for combinations of elements that would provide the suitable levels of both hardness and toughness, in order to handle the jobs currently done with diamonds. Searching through the myriad of possible combinations of elements found on the periodic table using the new toughness prediction model along with two tried and tested material hardness models, the algorithm pinpointed the most promising regions of compounds.

The results were then plotted and the analysis of the plots told researchers that the predictions were 90% accurate. Not only that, but the algorithm also listed new combinations that could prove to be extremely beneficial in various industry applications. Results found by the algorithm are already finding their way into practical applications, as one group is currently synthesizing tungsten pentaboride, one of the new tough materials indicated by the algorithm as an appropriate substitute for diamonds.

Researchers hope that the algorithm will provide a method to find new combinations of usable and appropriate materials in a more cost effective and efficient manner than the previous trial-and-error experimental method. It is also hoped that the algorithm will provide researchers with the ability to create general guidelines regarding which elemental properties are strong indicators that a material will be physically powerful enough to handle the desired application. Such guidelines would streamline the experimental process, and help companies develop more cost effective materials for industrial applications.

Further details: Computational discovery of hard and superhard materials,  Alexander G. Kvashnin, Zahed Allahyari, Artem R. Oganov, https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5109782

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