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This crystal of silicon carbide (SiC) is almost as hard as diamond. In fact, moissanite, which is another name for SiC, is used as a less expensive alternative to diamonds in jewelry. Because of its hardness, SiC also is used in bulletproof vests and is added to products to provide textured surfaces that won’t wear out, like the grip tape on skateboards. Scientists first discovered SiC in a meteorite in 1893—naturally occurring SiC is extremely rare on Earth. Since then, the vast majority of SiC has been made in the lab. Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Kouichi Yasuda made this 10-cm-tall crystal by applying a direct electric current to a mixture of silicon dioxide and carbon powders.
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