The Hardest known Substance in the Universe

Scientists revealed the strongest material in the universe and is 10 Billion times harder to break than steel.

‘Nuclear pasta’ in the crust of neutron stars is the ultra-strong material.

A team of scientists has calculated the strength of the material deep inside the crust of neutron stars and found it to be the strongest known material in the universe.

Above, Nuclear pasta.  Credit McGill University

Computer simulations of neutron stars could help better understand the possible sources of gravitational waves.

Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, and his colleagues from Indiana University and the California Institute of Technology, successfully ran the largest computer simulations ever conducted of neutron star crusts, becoming the first to describe how these break.

“The strength of the neutron star crust, especially the bottom of the crust, is relevant to a large number of astrophysics problems, but isn’t well understood,” says Caplan.

The Hardest known Substance in the Universe

Artist’s impression of a Neutron Star.  Credit NASA/Dana Berry

Neutron stars are born after supernovas, an implosion that compresses an object the size of the sun to about the size of Montreal, making them “a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth.” Their immense gravity makes their outer layers freeze solid, making them similar to earth with a thin crust enveloping a liquid core.

This high density causes the material that makes up a neutron star, known as nuclear pasta, to have a unique structure. Below the crust, competing forces between the protons and neutrons cause them to assemble into shapes such as long cylinders or flat planes, which are known in the literature as ‘lasagna’ and ‘spaghetti,’ hence the name ‘nuclear pasta.’ Together, the enormous densities and strange shapes make nuclear pasta incredibly stiff.

source McGill University