By using lasers to heat materials to extremely high temperatures, scientists at Stanford University have found a new way to produce synthetic diamonds from molecules found in crude oil and natural gas. Explanations.
“We wanted to create a system in which a single substance turns into pure diamond, without catalyst”
The diamonds ” natural Take shape hundreds of kilometers below the surface of the Earth, under extreme heat and pressure that cause carbon to crystallize. For decades, researchers have been studying different ways to synthetically obtain these precious stones, but until recently, massive amounts of energy and catalysts were needed for transformation to take place. Researchers from the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences therefore endeavored to find a simpler method to achieve this, which was presented in the review Science Advances.
” We wanted to create a system in which a single substance turns into pure diamond, without catalyst “, Advance Sulgiye Park, who oversaw the research. To make their new synthetic diamonds, scientists looked at refined powders from petroleum. By inspecting these materials using a powerful microscope, the team observed groupings of atoms organized in the same way as those composing the diamond crystals, which presented themselves as structures with one, two or three cages .
Unlike conventional diamonds, made entirely of carbon, these different ” diamonds Also contain hydrogen.
Numerous potential applications
The team then placed these diamonds in a diamond anvil cell, a device used to generate extreme pressures and produce ultra-hard materials. These were then heated by a laser, and following a series of tests and simulations, the team discovered that the three-cage diamondoid could be transformed into pure diamond with minimal energy. Subject to a temperature of approximately 627 ° C and a pressure of 20 gigapascals for a fraction of a second, the carbon atoms of the three-cage diamondoid quickly aligned and the hydrogen disappeared.
Although this technique currently only allows the production of diamond fragments, its real interest lies in the knowledge it allows to acquire on the way in which these precious stones can be synthetically formed. And the resulting applications would be far from being limited only to jewelry: adapting the hardness, transparency, chemical stability, thermal conductivity and other unique attributes of this type of diamond could make them useful to scientists in fields ranging from medicine to biology, including quantum computing.
” If you can synthetically produce even small quantities of pure diamond, then you can improve them in a controlled manner for specific applications. “, Concludes Yu Lin, co-author of the study.