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New Method for Lab-Grown Diamonds

30 May 2024

In South Korea, scientists seemingly have developed technology which may revolutionise the lab-grown diamond industry. The new method requires only atmospheric pressure and can produce promising results in just 15 minutes.

The formation of diamonds under natural conditions is quite a process. It takes the huge pressure of several gigapascals and the scorching heat of 1500 degrees Celsius over thousands of years to turn carbon atoms into diamonds. That's why they are mostly found buried hundreds of miles below the Earth's surface. But what if similar gems are created on the surface within 15 minutes without even requiring high pressure and high temperature? Scientists seemingly have developed such path-breaking technology, which may revolutionise the synthetic diamond industry over the coming years. Physical chemist Rodney Ruoff of the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea published the study on April 24 in the journal Nature. As of today, 99 per cent of synthetic diamonds are made using the high-pressure and high-temperature (HPHT) method. In this process, extreme conditions are used to convert carbon atoms into a diamond around a small seed or a started diamond. It has two shortcomings: It needs a lot of time, almost two weeks, and requires extreme conditions that are hard to maintain. Secondly, the process requires a started gem or a seed.

New method

The new method requires atmospheric pressure and can produce promising results in just 15 minutes.

The researchers used electrically heated gallium with a bit of silicon in a graphite crucible. They put the crucible in a chamber maintained at sea-level atmospheric pressure.

After a lot of experiments, they found that a gallium-nickel-iron mixture — coupled with a pinch of silicon produced the most ideal conditions for the formation of diamonds, within just 15 minutes.

"For over a decade I have been thinking about new ways to grow diamonds, as I thought it might be possible to achieve this in what might be unexpected (per 'conventional' thinking) ways," Ruoff was quoted as saying by Live Science.

However, the new method has its own challenges in the current form and requires further research to make it feasible for wider use.

For instance, the diamonds produced using this technique are tiny, the largest ones are hundreds of thousands of times smaller than the ones grown with HPHT. "In about a year or two, the world might have a clearer picture of things like possible commercial impact," Ruoff added. 

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