- Making diamonds for industrial purposes (think cutting, drilling, and polishing tools) takes extreme heat, pressure and chemical interactions. It’s not an efficient process it’s very expensive and doesn’t make many diamonds at a time.
- There are only two solid forms of carbon: diamonds and graphite (like what’s in the tip of a pencil).
- Scientists are always trying to come up with a new, more efficient and cheaper way of making diamonds.
- Researchers at North Carolina State University* took carbon with no crystal structure (called amorphous carbon), heated it to a little over 3,700 degrees Celsius for 20 nanoseconds**, and melted it to sheets of sapphire, glass and plastic using a laser (yes, a frickin’ laser).
- This was all done at room temperature and pressure (a big huge deal, since making things NOT at room temperature and pressure is hard, y’all).
- The carbon was quenched (cooled off quickly).
- They then used a high powered transmission electron microscope (read: shot electrons through the material) to “see” its new and exciting properties.
- A new form of solid carbon, called Q-carbon (Q for quenched), was formed.
- Q-carbon contains nanodiamond crystallites (read: extremely tiny diamond crystals).
- Q-carbon was used to grow nano- and micro-diamonds.
- Q-carbon also has magnetic properties never seen before in carbon and it gives off electrons more easily than other forms of carbon.
- If this can be repeated by other researchers, it could mean that there is now an easier, cheaper way of mass producing industrial diamonds (sorry, no diamond jewelry yet).
- This process could also be used to make nano- and micro-diamonds for biomedical applications (like cancer drug delivery) and to produce materials for electronic displays.
- Products using materials made from this process would use less energy to make (hooray sustainability!) and would be cheaper (hooray cheaper!).
- Materials science is rad. Cooler stuff using less stuff? Yes please.
Super Smart Science Pre-fix of the Day: “A-” meaning “without”. As in amorphous, meaning “without shape”.
Have a transmission electron microscope and some lasers sitting around? Want to make your own diamonds? Here are the instructions, but you better do it before the patents get approved! And always wear eye protection, kids.
Narayan, Jagdish and Bhaumik, Anagh, Journal of Applied Physics, 118, 215303 (2015), DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4936595
**Pretty sure CNN got this wrong! It definitely says 20 nanoseconds in the original journal article. Need some science editing help, CNN? I got you. Just sayin’.