A new study from the University of Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reveals how, with careful tuning of warmth and pressure, that recipe can generate diamonds from a kind of hydrogen and carbon molecule found in crude oil and natural gas.
Scientists have developed diamonds from other supplies for over six decades; however, the transformation sometimes requires excessive amounts of energy, time or the addition of a catalyst—often a metal—that tends to decrease the quality of the final product.
“We needed to see a clean system, in which a single substance turns into a pure diamond—without a catalyst,” stated the study’s chief author, Sulgiye Park, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford’s School of Earth.
Learning the mechanisms for this transformation will be necessary for applications beyond jewelry. Diamond’s physical characteristics—excessive hardness, optical transparency, chemical stability, high thermal conductivity—make it a valuable material for drugs, trade, quantum computing technologies, and organic sensing.
Natural diamonds develop from carbon hundreds of miles beneath Earth’s floor, where temperatures hit thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Most natural diamonds removed to date rocketed upward in volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, carrying historic minerals from Earth’s interior with them.
As a result, diamonds can present insight into the conditions and materials that exist in the planet’s interior. To develop crystals, the analysis team started with three types of powder refined from tankers filled with petroleum.