What is it?
A compound, made of boron and nitrogen, that is not found in nature but can be made in the lab. The conventional form of the material is very hard, though not as hard as diamond.
Why is it in the news?
Because scientists in the US and China were able to make it even harder than diamond. By applying high temperatures and pressures to pellets made from round nanoparticles of boron nitride, the team were able to shrink structures within the particles. This made the boron nitride incredibly tough.
It has a wide range of industrial uses from cutting through tough materials to drilling. And because of its high chemical stability and its ability to withstand extreme temperatures, it can be used in applications such as machining steel, where diamond would be unsuitable.
The samples were just a couple of millimeters across. The plan is to create larger samples that can be tested in cutting tools. But the method could also be applied to diamond, which could lead to even harder materials.