Scientists turn plastic into diamonds

Περισσότερα από ένα δισεκατομμύριο μίλια μακριά από τη Γη, στους πλανήτες Ποσειδώνας και Ουρανός, τα διαμάντια είναι παντοτινά (diamonds are forever).

This is not secular poetry, but a reasonable scientific conclusion:


We know that under extreme pressures and high temperatures miles below the surface of a planet, hydrocarbon explosions occur. But on distant Neptune and Uranus, the diamond-making process is a little more peculiar.

Since the 1970s, scientists have believed that diamonds might actually be raining down into the rocky interiors of planets – a diamond rain, if you will.

In 2017, researchers in Germany and California found a way to replicate these planetary conditions by making tiny tiny diamonds called nanodiamonds in the lab using polystyrene (aka Styrofoam).

Five years later and they're back at it again, this time using some other polyethylene terephthalate (PET), according to a study that published on Friday in Science Advances. The research has implications not only for our understanding of space, but also paves the way for the creation of nanodiamonds.


Dominik Kraus, a scientist at Germany's Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf research laboratory and lead author of the study, explained the process on Motherboard.

When Kraus and his colleagues first tried to make nanodiamonds out of polystyrene – which contains the same carbon and hydrogen elements found in Neptune and Uranus – they did so by bombarding the material with the Linac Coherent Light Source, a high-energy X-ray laser power at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California.

This process rapidly heated the polystyrene to 8.540 degrees Fahrenheit and compressed it by 150 gigapascals, similar to conditions found some 6.000 miles inside the icy planets. The researchers were able to make the tiny bling but later realized that a vital chemical ingredient was missing: oxygen.

So they turned to PET, which has a good balance of not only carbon and hydrogen but also oxygen, making it the closest chemical substitute to polystyrene.

“The chemistry in these conditions is very complex and modeling extremely difficult. "'Anything can happen' is a standard phrase when discussing such scenarios with theorists," says Kraus.

"Indeed, there were some predictions that the presence of oxygen helps [the separation of carbon from hydrogen] and the formation of diamonds, but there were also some that the reverse might be the case."

Kraus and his colleagues took a piece of PET, and did the same experimental moves as in 2017. But they also included something called small-angle X-ray diffraction to see how quickly the diamonds form.

"We found that the presence of oxygen enhances diamond formation rather than preventing it, making 'diamond rain' within these planets a very likely scenario," Kraus said. "We [also] see that diamonds grow at higher pressures and as time progresses in the experiments." They were also able to extract many tiny diamonds from a single X-ray shot, on the order of a few billion crystallites (or a few micrograms if we're talking total weight). The Best Technology Site in Greece
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Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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