Gems are typically formed after carbon is decomposed and heated to the bottom of the earth for billions of years – that is what makes them so popular.
Scientists in Australia now say they can speed up the process in just a few minutes – and at room temperature.
An international team of researchers led by the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, said on Wednesday that they had created two types of diamonds at room temperature using the same high pressure as the 640 African elephant at the tip of a shoe.
Researchers say they can create two different types of diamonds – similar to the ones used in jewelry, and the other type, called Lonsdaleite, which is found in nature with a meteorological effect and is harder than most diamonds.
Synthetic diamonds are not self-inflicted, and have been created in laboratories since the 1940s to find gems that are cheaper, more ethical and more environmentally friendly.
But researchers are excited to create such diamonds at room temperature, especially hard Lonsdaleite diamonds, which have the potential to be used to cut through “hardened” materials at mining sites, they said.
“Creating rare and more valuable gems is the long-term goal of this project,” said Xingshuo Huang, an ANU technician working on the project. “The ability to make two diamonds at room temperature is exciting to achieve for the first time in our lab.”
Large distortion, sliding force
To form the diamond, the researchers used massive pressure to create the “torque” that they believe causes the carbon atoms to move into space, said Jodie Bradby, a physics professor at ANU.
“Ordinary diamonds were formed billions of years ago, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) deep in Earth, where there is high pressure and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit),” she said. “Distortion in the story is how we apply pressure.”
Dougal McCulloch, a professor of physics at RMIT who led the research, and his team then used advanced electronic microscopy techniques to extract fragments from experimental samples to better understand how they were created.
When the team studied the samples, they found blood vessels in both diamonds and Lonsdaleite running through.
“The first sightings of Lonsdaleite tiny rivers and diamonds are amazing and help us to understand how they form,” said McCulloch.
Researchers from the University of Sydney and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, USA, also participated in this research.