An international team made diamonds in minutes in a lab at room temperature – a process that takes billions of years, huge amounts of pressure and extremely hot temperatures.
The team, led by RMIT University and the Australian National University (ANU), working with the University of Sydney and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States, made two types of diamonds: the one on an engagement ring and the other a type of diamond called Lonsdaleite, which is found in nature in A meteor collision site such as Canyon Diablo in the United States.
One of the principal researchers, Professor Dougal McCulloch and his team at RMIT, used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture solid and intact slices from experimental samples to create quick snapshots of how the two diamonds form..
“Our images showed that regular diamonds only form in the middle of these Lonsdaleite veins according to this new method developed by our multi-institutional team,” McCulloch said.
“Seeing these little ‘rivers’ of Lonsdaleite and regular diamonds for the first time was amazing and really helps us understand how they are formed.
Lonsdaleite, named after crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, the first woman to be elected as a fellow of the Royal Society, has a crystal structure different from regular diamond. It is expected to be 58 percent more difficult.
Professor Judy Bradby of the Australian National University’s School of Physics Research said the breakthrough shows Superman may have had a similar trick up his sleeve when he crushed coal and turned it into diamonds, without using heat rays..
“Natural diamonds usually form over billions of years, at a depth of about 150 kilometers in the earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1000 degrees Celsius,” Bradby said..
But this unexpected new finding shows that both Lonsdaleite and regular diamond can also form at normal room temperatures by applying high pressures of 100 GPa – equivalent to 640 African elephants at the tip of a ballet shoe.
“The development of the story is how pressure is applied. In addition to very high stresses, we also allow carbon to experiment with something called « shear » – which is like a twisting or slipping force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to shift into place and form regular and maced diamonds, ”Bradby said.
« Lonsdaleite has the potential to be used to cut superhard materials on mining sites, » Bradby said..
“Creating more of this rare but highly beneficial diamond is the long-term goal of this business.
“An investigation into the room temperature composition of the ultra-tough diamond and lonsdaleite nanomaterials,” in collaboration with collaborators from the Australian National University, the University of Sydney and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is published in Small (DOI: 10). 1002 / smll. 202004695).
Scientist, Room Temperature, Research, Judy Bradby, RMIT
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