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Scientists Make Diamonds from Peanut Butter

peanut butter

Image credit: Nicolas Raymond, CC

Generally speaking diamonds would be produced nearly 800 kilometers below the surface of Earth, where the temperature is over 2200 degrees Celsius and pressure 1.3 million times bigger than the atmosphere combine and crystallize carbon into the clear white stone with which we are quite familiar

However, it could take just several days for synthetic diamonds to replicate the process and diamonds produced in this way would be applied in the areas of electronics, jewelry, manufacturing and many others.

Dan Frost from Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany has been trying to produce diamonds out of peanut butter, a rather impossible source of carbon.

Although Frost’s process was thought to be the ridiculous one, it did enable him to explore the composition of Earth’s mantle, and further challenge some previous assumptions regarding where some of such elemental components was originated from.

It was assumed before that meteorites and asteroids had brought a large quantity of material to early Earth. However, the amount of silicon discovered in those bodies was much higher than what could be discovered in the crust of the Earth. In order to test whether the silicon moved down into the mantle, it was necessary for Frost to make replication of the environmental conditions of that area.

With heat and pressure similar to conditions within the mantle, Frost started to rearrange the carbon atoms into a dense composition, thus more pressure was added to speed up the making of a diamond, which was then bombarded with acoustics by Frost. The pathway of the sound waves through the diamond was then compared to those recorded from seismic waves, making it possible for Frost to be engaged in deductions about the composition of the lower mantle.

It was discovered by Frost that the lower mantle did not seemed to be rich in silicon, thus giving some doubts about where all of that silicon had gone. Did it go thoroughly to the core? Or did it remain on the crust and get rid of by meteorite impacts? Or could scientists be wrong with their assumption that the amount of silicon was expected to have fallen down to the Earth?

It is yet to be confirmed that peanut butter diamonds would be produced with features of jewelry quite soon. By application of Frost’s method, it would take weeks to create a diamond with the diameter of 3 millimeters, much smaller than a round cut 0.25 carat stone. In addition, the hydrogen bonded to the carbon atoms would be given off after the diamond took shape, thus causing small explosions.

What Frost is doing now is for the geological and industrial implications of creating diamonds. Although his unique experiment applies peanut butter as the carbon source, minor modifications in the process could produce stones with special properties. Putting boron into diamonds could be very useful in minimizing the amount of heat produced when diamonds were applied in semiconductors, which at present was a substantial amount. By the means of carbon nanotubes, a level of structural support could be added so as to create a much stronger material than anything on the Earth.

Source: BBC Future