Stories tagged diamonds

Diamonds and Silver and Gold. OH MY!
Diamonds and Silver and Gold. OH MY!Courtesy Calliopejen

Even nanoscience can't resist the bling. Scientists are incorporating gold, silver and diamonds into all kinds of nanotechnology.

"The most marketable bling technology might be wrapped into something that you take with you everywhere. It could transform your favourite gadgets, including cellphones and music players - by incorporating them into your clothing. "Rather than carrying your iPod, the whole electronic system could be embedded in your jacket," says Jennifer Lewis, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign."

Check out this article from New Scientist to learn more.


No one could ever bust this grill: Try as you might.
No one could ever bust this grill: Try as you might.Courtesy Bradley G.
Here’s a little bit more diamond news for y’all. Scientists have discovered not one, but two substances harder than diamonds.

The first material is called “wurtzite boron nitride,” and the other, even harder substance (58% harder than diamonds) is called “lonsdaleite.” Lonsdaleite, as it happens, is made of… diamond.

Or, if you want to be a nerd about it, lonsdaleite is made of carbon, like diamonds are, but it has a slightly different molecular structure. It’s often called “hexagonal diamond.”

Nobody had realized that these materials could be harder than diamonds before, because no one had considered subjecting them to “normal compressive pressures under indenters.” When you do expose wurtzite boron nitride or lonsdaleite to normal compressive pressures under indenters, they go through a phase transformation—that is, something changes in the bonds between their atoms, making them stronger. The atomic bonds in regular diamonds can’t undergo this change.

What’s that? You don’t know what “normal compressive pressures under indenters” is? Seriously? Whatever. Everybody who’s anybody knows what that is. But… um, I don’t know exactly what it means either. I’m pretty sure that it means that the materials undergo this bond-strengthening transformation only when it’s squeezed really hard.

So there you go. Throw out your diamonds, and get yourself some… better diamonds.


Get rid of that lime!: It's making my diamonds all sticky and sour!
Get rid of that lime!: It's making my diamonds all sticky and sour!Courtesy chrisngayle2001
That’s right, y’all, I’m promoting the intentional misinterpretation of science!

Tequila will make you rich (and therefore famous) because you can make diamonds out of it! Also, I hear that it makes you drunk.

But the diamonds, those sparkly diamonds, that’s why we’re here. Assuming you’re over 21 (or that you have a super cool and criminally irresponsible older cousin), and assuming that you have the equipment for pulsed liquid injection chemical vapor deposition, you could be rolling in diamonds. Sure, the diamonds would be only a few ten millionths of a meter in size, but… diamonds!

And now… let us back up. We aren’t talking about some glittery Cuervo version of Goldschlager. No, we are—happily—dealing with science here!

See, some Mexican researchers were developing methods of producing diamond films out of organic compounds, e.g. acetone, methanol, and ethanol. They found that ethanol (the kind of alcohol we put into our bodies to make us happier, stronger, and smarter, and then sadder, weaker, and dumber) makes some pretty decent diamond films, especially when it’s mixed with water. About 40% ethanol and 60% water seemed to work best.

A clever scientist then made an interesting connection in a liquor store before work: tequila is also about 40% ethanol and 60% water. This was sort of a remarkable development, as the sort of person who finds themselves in a liquor store before work isn’t necessarily the same sort of person expected to make clever scientific connections. Liquor store employees may be the exception here.

At any rate, the scientist grabbed himself a cheap little bottle of white tequila and brought it to the lab. Said scientist and his fellow scientists then heated the liquor to 536 degrees (230 C) to transform it to a gas. The gas was then injected into a reaction chamber and further heated to 1470 degrees (800 C) to break down its molecular structure. The hot booze gas happened to have just the right mixture of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon for diamond growth, and there was sort of a rain of tiny diamonds in the chamber. The diamonds, only a few hundred nanometers each (and, remember, a nanometer is one billionth of a meter), settled onto the trays at the bottom of the chamber to form a thin film.

So we aren’t exactly talking about the sort of diamonds with which you could coat your grill (but, seriously, my front has got so much ice right now, I don’t think even nanoscale diamonds would fit, so whatev). Still, diamond films are nothing to be sneezed at—coating something with even a tiny layer of diamonds makes it extremely hard and heat-resistant.

The scientists behind the project are hopeful that this technology could be applied to cutting tools, optical electronics, radiation detectors, and semiconductors within only a few years. For now, however, they are busy testing out different types of tequilas. Which is exactly what I would do.


10 Carat Diamond: Credit: Carnegie Institution This 5-carat diamond was laser-cut from a 10-carat single crystal produced by high-growth rate CVD.

If a small diamond is placed in an environment with just the right pressure, temperature, and an atmosphere rich in vaporized carbon, the carbon vapor will start attaching to the surfaces of the "seed" diamond. Layer by layer the diamond will get bigger. Scientists think that growing 300 carat diamonds (one inch) will soon be possible.

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. have produced 10-carat, half-inch thick single-crystal diamonds at rapid growth rates (100 micrometers per hour) using a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process. The size is approximately five times that of commercially available diamonds produced by the standard high-pressure/high-temperature (HPHT) method and other CVD techniques.