Scientists transformed fossil fuel into diamonds — and that is not a metaphor. It is a wonder that researchers from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory proved to be possible.
Diamond is a solid form of the element carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal structure called a diamond cubic. In the natural process, diamonds are the carbon remains that Earth’s seething groins expelled up to its surface millions of years ago.
Most natural diamonds have ages between 1 billion and 3.5 billion years. Most were formed at depths between 150 and 250 kilometers in the Earth’s mantle, although a few have come from as deep as 800 kilometers.
Under high pressure and temperature, carbon-containing fluids dissolved minerals and replaced them with diamonds. Recently, tens to hundreds of million years ago, they were carried to the surface in volcanic eruptions and deposited in igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites.
Fossil fuels can be transformed into diamonds
They are considered “vessels for bringing back samples from the deepest parts of the Earth.” Wendy Mao, Stanford mineral physicist and leader of the lab where Park performed most of the experiments from the study, said so.
There is no need for all that effort now. A tiny amount of odorless, sticky powders, and a laser is enough. Catalysts aren’t necessary anymore, as they were before. It isn’t the first time, scientists tried to create diamonds from scratch, but they always needed metals in the process, which made the quality of the diamond to be diminished.
Now, a hydrogen and carbon molecule found in crude oil and natural gas and similar to rock salt is enough. Put in the pressure chamber, and with a little shot of laser, you’ve got yourself a diamond. Thermodynamics was cheated, and that brings excitement to geologist Rodney Ewing, co-author of the study.
A lot of domains, other than jewelry, will profit from this new outcome. Medicine, quantum computing technologies, industry, and biological sensing, all need diamond’s chemical stability, extreme hardness, optical transparency, and high thermal conductivity.