December 17, 2015
Filed under News
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Researchers have discovered a new phase of solid carbon and can use it to create diamond at room temperature.
North Carolina State University researchers have discovered a new phase of solid carbon. Before this happened, there were only two phases of solid carbon—- graphite and diamond. The technique used to create this “Q-carbon” as researchers are calling it is also performed at room temperature at one atmosphere of pressure; the same pressure one would experience just sitting in their living room or going outside. By tweaking the technique of creating Q-carbon just a bit, researchers are able to create diamond at room temperature. Diamonds usually require temperatures of around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, at a pressure of around 725,000 pounds per square inch or nearly 50,000 atmospheres.
Researchers create Q-carbon by coating a substrate, or underlying layer, in amorphous carbon. A laser is used to raise the carbon’s temperature to around 4,000 Kelvin, then rapidly cooling it to create Q-carbon. Tweaking the rate of cooling creates diamond instead of Q-carbon, although Q-Carbon is much harder than diamond. This shows potential for benefitting medical devices which traditionally use diamond to cut or puncture.
Diamond itself isn’t necessarily rare. While it’s hardness is very practical, there are plenty of gemstones that are rarer than diamond. Red Beryl is around 1,000 times more valuable than gold.
Being able to create diamond in a lab is bad news for diamond cartel De Beers controlled supply and demand of diamonds by going as far as purchasing all diamond inventory to maintain total control. Through marketing campaigns, De Beers was able to bring diamonds into the mainstream as their market price plummeted. Shady business practice has artificially raised the price and perceived worth of diamond. Now anyone can make their own diamonds—- as long as they have a laser and some amorphous carbon handy.