Which Abrasive Material is the Strongest?

Abrasive materials play a crucial role in a wide range of industrial and technological processes. They are substances used to shape or finish a workpiece through rubbing, which leads to part of the workpiece being worn away. The strength of an abrasive material is a critical attribute that determines its efficiency and suitability for specific applications. Among the various types of abrasives available, the strongest known abrasive material is diamond. This article delves into the world of abrasives, focusing on what makes diamond the strongest, its applications, and how it compares to other abrasive materials.

Abrasive Material


Understanding Abrasives

Abrasives are materials, often minerals, that are used to finish or shape other materials through friction. Common applications include grinding, polishing, buffing, honing, cutting, drilling, sharpening, lapping, and sanding. Abrasives are classified into two main categories: natural and synthetic. Natural abrasives include materials like diamond, corundum (natural aluminum oxide), and silica (quartz). Synthetic abrasives include manufactured materials like silicon carbide, synthetic diamond, and alumina.

The effectiveness of an abrasive material is determined by its hardness, toughness, and friability. Hardness is the material’s resistance to being scratched, toughness is its resistance to fracturing, and friability is its ability to break down and expose new sharp edges.


Diamond: The Pinnacle of Abrasives

Diamond is the hardest known natural material, making it the most effective abrasive available. Its exceptional hardness, measured at 10 on the Mohs scale, is due to the strong covalent bonding between its carbon atoms in a crystal lattice structure. This atomic arrangement provides diamond with not only unparalleled hardness but also high thermal conductivity, making it suitable for a wide range of industrial applications.

  1. Properties of Diamond as an Abrasive
  • Hardness:Diamond’s position as the hardest material is well-established, making it capable of cutting, grinding, and drilling virtually any other material, including other hard substances like corundum and silicon carbide.
  • Thermal Conductivity:Diamond has high thermal conductivity, which helps in dissipating heat during abrasive processes, preventing damage to both the abrasive tool and the workpiece.
  • Chemical Inertness:Diamond is chemically inert in most environments, which means it does not react with the materials it is processing, thus maintaining its abrasive properties over time.
  • Wear Resistance:Due to its hardness, diamond is extremely wear-resistant, providing a longer lifespan compared to other abrasives.
  1. Types of Diamond Abrasives
  • Natural Diamond:Mined from the earth, natural diamond is less commonly used in industrial applications due to its high cost and variability in quality.
  • Synthetic Diamond:Manufactured through high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD) processes, synthetic diamonds are more uniform in quality and available in large quantities, making them more suitable for industrial use.
  1. Applications of Diamond Abrasives
  • Cutting Tools:Diamond-tipped saw blades, drills, and cutting discs are widely used in industries such as construction, mining, and manufacturing to cut hard materials like stone, concrete, and ceramics.
  • Grinding and Polishing:Diamond grinding wheels and polishing pads are essential in the fabrication and finishing of hard materials, including glass, gemstones, and metals.
  • Aerospace and Automotive:Diamond abrasives are used in the machining of hard alloys and composites found in the aerospace and automotive industries, ensuring high precision and durability of components.
  • Medical Devices:Precision tools made with diamond abrasives are crucial in the production of medical devices, where exacting standards and cleanliness are paramount.


Comparison with Other Abrasives

While diamond is the strongest abrasive material, it is essential to understand how it compares to other widely used abrasives:

Abrasive Material

  1. Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN):
  • Hardness:CBN is the second hardest material after diamond, making it suitable for working with ferrous materials, which react chemically with diamond.
  • Applications:Commonly used in the machining of steel and other ferrous alloys, CBN abrasives are preferred for their ability to maintain sharpness and resist chemical wear.
  1. Silicon Carbide:
  • Hardness:Silicon carbide is one of the hardest synthetic materials, with a hardness of 9-9.5 on the Mohs scale.
  • Applications:It is used for cutting, grinding, and polishing hard materials like glass, ceramics, and non-ferrous metals.
  1. Aluminum Oxide:
  • Hardness:Aluminum oxide has a hardness of about 9 on the Mohs scale.
  • Applications:It is versatile and used in various applications, including grinding wheels, sandpaper, and blasting abrasives.
  1. Boron Carbide:
  • Hardness:Boron carbide is another very hard material, with a hardness just below that of diamond and CBN.
  • Applications:It is used in abrasive blasting, cutting tools, and armor plating due to its high hardness and low density.
  1. Garnet:
  • Hardness:Garnet abrasives have a hardness of 7-8 on the Mohs scale.
  • Applications:They are commonly used in waterjet cutting, sandblasting, and as a filtration medium.


The Future of Diamond Abrasives

With the advancement of technology, the use of diamond abrasives is expected to grow, particularly in high-precision industries. The development of new manufacturing techniques, such as the use of nanodiamonds and diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings, is expanding the range of applications and improving the performance of diamond abrasives.

  1. Nanodiamonds:
  • Properties:Nanodiamonds, particles of diamond in the nanometer size range, possess the same hardness as larger diamond crystals but have unique surface properties that make them useful in applications requiring extreme precision and smooth finishes.
  • Applications:They are being explored for use in medical applications, lubrication, and as additives in composite materials to enhance their hardness and wear resistance.
  1. Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coatings:
  • Properties:DLC coatings exhibit some of the desirable properties of diamond, such as high hardness and low friction, but can be applied as thin films on other materials.
  • Applications:These coatings are used in cutting tools, engine components, and various wear-resistant applications where the benefits of diamond are desired without the cost of bulk diamond materials.



Diamond stands out as the strongest abrasive material due to its unparalleled hardness, wear resistance, and thermal conductivity. These properties make it indispensable in industries requiring high precision and durability, from cutting and grinding to polishing and drilling. While other abrasives like cubic boron nitride, silicon carbide, and aluminum oxide also play significant roles in various applications, none match the overall performance and versatility of diamond.

The continuous innovation in synthetic diamond production and the development of new diamond-based materials promise to enhance the capabilities and expand the applications of diamond abrasives even further. As industries demand higher performance and precision, the role of diamond as the premier abrasive material is set to become even more prominent, driving technological advancements and efficiency improvements across multiple sectors.