Laboratory-created diamonds in just 15 minutes? it’s now reality

An innovative method developed by scientists in South Korea allows the creation of diamonds in just 15 minutes, overcoming the limitations of traditional methods and opening up new possibilities for the gem industry

South Korean scientists have developed a technique that could transform the traditional diamond market by making production faster, cheaper, and more sustainable.

For decades, laboratory diamond growth relied on replicating the conditions of Earth’s mantle—a colossal endeavor requiring immense pressures and scorching temperatures to turn carbon into synthetic diamonds. This method, known as High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT), is not only incredibly energy and time-intensive (often taking weeks), but it also produces limited results. HPHT diamonds typically max out at the size of a blueberry, and the process struggles to produce larger gems.

Dr. Rodney Ruoff and his team at the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea have overcome these limitations. Instead of mimicking Earth’s fiery furnace, they have devised a surprisingly simple method that operates at atmospheric pressure. The key lies in a specially designed chamber and the use of gallium, a metal that catalyzes the formation of graphene from methane.

The innovative process

During experiments, the researchers channeled carbon-rich methane gas that had been super-heated through the special chamber. There, the gas met a crucible containing a unique mixture of gallium, nickel, iron, and a dash of silicon. In just fifteen minutes, diamond deposits materialized at the base of the crucible.

The resulting diamonds are nearly pure, primarily consisting of carbon with a few silicon atoms as impurities. While the exact mechanisms are still under study, researchers believe that a decrease in temperature inside the chamber concentrates the carbon, inducing it to crystallize into diamonds. Silicon appears to play a crucial role in this process, likely acting as a seed for diamond formation, as Dr. Ruoff explained:

“For over a decade I’ve been thinking about new ways to grow diamonds because I believed it was possible to do so in unexpected ways compared to conventional thinking. In about a year or two, the world could have a clearer picture of the potential commercial impact.”

However, there is a drawback. Although the new method boasts incredible speed and simplicity, it produces microscopic diamonds, too small to adorn a finger or a necklace. But there’s a silver lining. The low-pressure environment used in this technique has scientists optimistic about scaling up production. If they can grow these diamonds to usable sizes, it could be a game-changer for the industry.

So, what does the future hold for these tiny diamonds? While they may not dazzle your finger in the near future, their industrial potential is vast. In the future, new diamonds could be just fifteen minutes away.

Source: Nature

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