May 19, 2024 at 9:31 am

Synthetic Diamonds Can Now Be Made In Minutes. Here’s What That Could Mean For The Industry.

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

I think that, if you want to know the history of the diamond and gemstone business, you’re aware that diamonds are a bit of a scam.

They’re neither rare nor precious, but since the industry has convinced us they’re both, the gemstone behemoths are unlikely to be thrilled that synthetic diamonds are getting even easier to make.

This new method for making diamonds doesn’t require high temperature and pressures, meaning that they’re not only faster, but cheaper, to make.

We have known how to make synthetic diamonds since the 1950s, but previously, it took 5-12 days (plus the aforementioned high temperatures and pressures).

The cost of the process hasn’t been all that less than those of their natural counterparts, so synthetic diamonds haven’t really infringed on the mining industry.

Source: Shutterstock

These new, low pressure diamonds could change all of that.

Researchers at Korea’s Institute for Basic Science have shown that a liquid metal alloy of gallium, iron, nickel, and silicon can grow diamonds in a hydrogen/methane atmosphere.

The methane provides the carbon for the diamond to grow.

Professor Rod Ruoff can’t overstate what this new method could mean.

“This pioneering breakthrough was the result of human ingenuity, unremitting efforts, and the concerted cooperation of many collaborators.”

There was plenty of trial and error, with the team ending up with a smaller chamber and one-twelfth of the preparation time.

No seed particles are required, unlike with the old-school synthetic diamonds, and they settled on a ratio of 77.75% gallium by atomic abundance, 0.25% silicon, and 11% each of iron and nickel in the liquid alloy.

Graduate student Yan Gong talks about how they figured this out.

“One day when I ran the experiment and then cooled down the graphite crucible to solidify the liquid metal, and removed the solidified liquid metal piece, I noticed a ‘rainbow pattern’ spread over a few millimeters on the bottom surface of this piece. We found out that the rainbow colors were due to diamonds!”

The process takes just 10-15 minutes to start them forming, and is finished after 150 minutes. They hope to eventually extend the latter number to achieve bigger gems.

Source: Shutterstock

Which is all to say, the gemstone industry doesn’t need to panic today, and probably not in the next several months, either.

That said, if scientists can find methods to promote the supersaturated carbon layer that comes before formation, that could change.

In addition, we still don’t really understand why this combination of metals and gases works the way it does. Though experts think the similarities between silicon and carbon bonds might be the key, more experiments are required.

I’m sure that, with all of the money that’s at stake, research will continue. And maybe everyone will be able to afford a lovely diamond one day soon.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.