ENTERTAINMENT

Scientists create diamonds for the first time in just a few minutes in a laboratory at room temperature


Scientists create diamonds for the first time in just a few minutes in a room temperature laboratory by applying a twisted compressive force

  • Scientists have made two types of diamonds in a laboratory at room temperature
  • The team has achieved this before, but only at high temperatures
  • They used a diamond anvil, a device that compresses materials
  • The team was able to produce diamonds with a twisting or sliding force

Diamonds formed deep in the ground over three billion years ago, but scientists created the gemstones in a laboratory in just minutes.

An international team has recreated diamonds found in engagement rings and Lonsdaleites at room temperature using a diamond anvil, a high-pressure device that compresses small pieces under extreme pressure.

They used carbon crystallization for the experiment and then provided a twisting or sliding force of pressure known as "shear".

After the high pressure treatment at room temperature, both diamonds together formed ribbons with a core-shell structure. According to experts, this corresponds to 640 African elephants on the tip of a ballet shoe.

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After the high pressure treatment at room temperature, both diamonds together formed ribbons with a core-shell structure. According to experts, this corresponds to 640 African elephants on the tip of a ballet shoe.

The lab-made diamond was made by the Australian National University (ANU) and RMIT University, who made a diamond in a lab setting – but only using intense heat.

This new unexpected discovery shows that both Lonsdaleite and normal diamond can form at normal room temperatures by simply applying high pressures.

Jodie Bradby, a physicist at ANU, told AAP, "It all depends on how we apply the pressure – we let the carbon experience what is called 'shear' – which is like a twisting or sliding force."

“We believe that this allows the carbon atoms to move in place and form both lonsdaleite and regular diamonds like those found on engagement rings.

An international team has recreated diamonds found in engagement rings and Lonsdaleites at room temperature using a diamond anvil, a high-pressure device that compresses small pieces under extreme pressure

An international team has recreated diamonds found in engagement rings and Lonsdaleites at room temperature using a diamond anvil, a high-pressure device that compresses small pieces to extreme pressure

“We don't do that in anything super amazing or explosive. We only compress the material under extreme pressure.

"It all happens in minutes."

Co-lead researcher Professor Dougal McCulloch and his team at RMIT used advanced electron microscopic techniques to capture solid and intact sections from the experimental samples and take snapshots of the formation of the two types of diamond.

"Our pictures showed that the regular diamonds only form in the middle of these Lonsdaleite veins using this new method developed by our inter-agency team," said McCulloch.

"Seeing these little 'rivers' of Lonsdaleite and regular diamonds for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they could form."

Lonsdaleite, named after the crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, the first woman elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society, has a different crystal structure than regular diamond.

The researchers hope that their breakthrough against nature will enable them to develop the ultra-hard diamond for industrial use in cutting tools such as those on mining sites.

"Any process at room temperature is much easier and cheaper to design than a process that you have to do at hundreds or thousands of degrees," said Prof. Bradby.

“Unfortunately, I don't think it will mean cheaper diamonds for engagement rings.

"But our Lonsdaleite diamonds could become a miner's best friend if we can save them from having to change expensive drills so often."

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