Scientists Grow Micro-Diamonds in 15 Minutes

In South Korea, chemists have recently developed a method to grow artificial micro-diamonds in minutes instead of days.

Remarkably, this technique does not require high temperatures or intense pressure and creates diamonds “from scratch.” This breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize the diamond industry by providing an unlimited supply of micro-diamonds for polishing and cutting applications.

Typically, gemstones form under intense heat, pressure, natural catalysts, or a combination of these factors. Artificially manufacturing diamonds has traditionally required significant amounts of heat and pressure. However, Rodney Ruoff, a physical chemist at the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea, has found a way to eliminate these requirements.

Ruoff and his colleagues used only graphene, silicon, gallium, iron, and nickel—foregoing the need for gigapascals of pressure and temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius).

Ruoff’s method began with gallium, which had previously been shown to catalyze the formation of graphene. Graphene is pure carbon, similar to a diamond, but with a straight and flat chemical structure, unlike diamond’s tetrahedral formation.

The most expensive component of the experiment was a home-built chamber designed by co-author Won Kyung Seong. This chamber housed the gallium-nickel-iron mixture in a graphene crucible and withstood the introduction of hot methane gas. When all these elements combined, along with a pinch of silicon, diamonds formed within 15 minutes at sea-level pressures inside the chamber.

The precise chemical details of the experiment’s success are still not fully understood, and it will likely be a few years before scientists can confirm whether Ruoff’s process can produce diamonds suitable for jewelry. The diamonds described in their study were thousands of times smaller than lab-grown diamonds typically used for jewelry.

However, the film of micro-diamonds could replace larger diamonds for purposes such as being crushed into powder. Diamond is used for many different cutting and grinding tools and is used from construction to cutting and polishing diamonds themselves.

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