Scientists have artificially created diamonds and a new type of water from plastic. You really want to know.


Scientists have long assumed that a diamond is not as rare in space as it is on Earth. Moreover, on some planets of the solar system, it even rains diamonds. We are talking about the so-called ice giants, such as Neptune, Saturn and Uranus. Presumably, diamonds form under certain conditions in the atmosphere, and then fall to the surface. However, there is no evidence for this. There is only one way to find out whether diamond rains really exist on these planets – to send a spacecraft to one of them, but this is expensive and time consuming. You can also get indirect confirmation of this by creating similar conditions on Earth, and see if a stone is formed. This is exactly what the scientists did.

How diamonds were created in the laboratory

To find out if diamonds could form on Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn, scientists used a sheet of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. This material is well known to each of us, as plastic bottles and food packaging are made from it. The most powerful X-ray laser on Earth, which is equipped with the National Accelerator Laboratory SLAC, was also used in the experiment. The laser is capable of heating materials up to 6000 degrees Celsius.

Why was PET plastic used for the experiment? According to scientists, it has an optimal ratio of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The researchers passed a laser beam through a sheet of plastic, which led not only to its instantaneous heating, but also to the emergence of high pressure, many times higher than that of the earth.

Scientists use PET plastic to create diamonds

The authors then used two different imaging techniques to find out what was happening to the plastic. As a result, diamonds were found, or rather, nanodiamonds with a density of up to 3.87 g/cm3. According to the head of the study, Dominik Kraus, this happened because the high temperature accelerated the process of splitting carbon and hydrogen. The atoms of these elements combined and formed minerals.

What are nanodiamonds? As you might guess, these are very small diamonds, the size of which is only a few nanometers, that is, billionths of a meter.

Have scientists discovered a new form of water?

The experiment showed not only that, under certain conditions, plastic can be turned into diamonds, but also the possible existence of an exotic state of water at extremely high pressure. This state is called superionic water ice, which apparently exists on icy planets.

Study finds diamonds may rain on Saturn and other ice giants

In this form of water, protons are free to move through the lattice of oxygen atoms. According to the authors of the work, the presence of such water on Uranus and Neptune explains their specific magnetic fields. They are possibly caused by the movement of protons through an exotic type of matter.

I must say that this study, published in the journal Science Advances, refutes previous calculations, according to which it was assumed that carbon atoms located in the depths of icy planets make superionic water extremely unstable. Experiments have shown that carbon and water form diamonds.

Will diamonds depreciate now?

Diamond on Earth is a rare, and therefore expensive gemstone. However, on other planets, as we see, they can be ordinary stones that can be found everywhere. It is even possible that the cores of the planets are surrounded by thick layers of diamonds. Whether this is really so will only be known after the probe visits one of the icy planets. As we discussed earlier in the article on Saturn’s moon , this should happen within the next decade.

Nanodiamond production can now be simplified

I must say that the process of diamond formation discovered by scientists can be quite common. But the most important thing is that it can be used for earthly purposes. Nanodiamonds have found application in industrial abrasives and polishing pastes. In addition, they are necessary for the creation of quantum sensors. Previously, to create nanodiamonds, you had to blow up larger diamonds with explosives.

The new method is cleaner and more environmentally friendly, but this, of course, does not mean that it is now possible to artificially create diamonds, as a result of which they will depreciate. It’s just about diamond chips. Large diamonds cannot be obtained in this way. Where do they come from on Earth and how they are mined.

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