Laser Technology Has The Ability To Turn Plastic Into Precious Diamond
In science class, we were told that it took billions of years for coal to become a diamond. It was a long tedious process, but this was when we realized why diamonds were truly considered precious. They came out from pressure placed on a mineral.
Scientists know just how precious these stones are and have been looking for ways to replicate these without having to wait years upon years for it. The secret here are two things – laser and plastic. The cheap material could actually now become something beautiful.
For the very first time, a thin film of plastic was made into tiny diamonds. They didn’t even have to wait long for this. A shot with a laser beam could immediately change this cheap material within seconds. And while these are considered synthetic diamonds, these are also considered precious because of their hardness. They can be used to create high-quality cutting and polishing tools. They are also valued for their thermal conductivity and electrical insulation.
If people find a way to make synthetic diamond production a reality, plastic from water bottles and other containers may not just be disposed in landfills and the sea, where they destroy the environment. This could actually help the earth along the way.
This amazing scientific breakthrough means that it can contribute to planetary science. The researchers behind this project managed to make this transformation possible by taking inspiration from ice giants such as Neptune and Uranus.
So, how does something so cheap become one of the hardest and rarest minerals on Earth? The team simply looked at diamonds at their most fundamental level. These precious gems are basically a solid form of carbon. The specific crystalline structure have simply been carefully arranged beside other elements such as hydrogen and oxygen.
They performed tests on it with the use of a sheet of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic that is oftentimes found in packaging food and beverages. The plastic was heated using a laser beam up to 6,000°C in temperature. PET comes from petroleum, which is popularly known as a “hydrocarbon.”
The test then compressed the plastic under a weight. The weight is equal to millions of times Earth’s atmospheric pressure, and they did this for a few billionths of a second. In the short time, the process was able to reconfigure the molecules of the plastic into what they realized was a nanodiamond.
“So far, diamonds of this kind have mainly been produced by detonating explosives,” said Professor Dominik Kraus, of the University of Rostock, Germany. He is also a co-author of the study. “With the help of laser flashes, they could be manufactured much more cleanly in the future,” he added.
The laser then fired ten flashes and directed it at the plastic film. This was when the nanodiamonds formed. These are then placed in a collecting tank that’s filled with water. Then, they are decelerated to be filtered and gathered.
“Up to now, we used hydrocarbon films for these kinds of experiments. And we discovered that this extreme pressure produced tiny diamonds,” Krauss explained as he talked about the process. “PET has a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate the activity in ice planets.”
They have managed to prove that the theory they have come up with works with plastic. This takes the concept to a whole different level, making it convenient for production here. It also shows how nanodiamonds might be made in large quantities on ice giants such Neptune and Uranus.
That’s because ice giants have carbon, hydrogen and plenty oxygen in the atmosphere. This new study has already been published in Science Advances. This study proves that diamonds rain within the ice giants that are found at the end of our solar system.
“The effect of the oxygen was to accelerate the splitting of the carbon and hydrogen and thus encourage the formation of nanodiamonds. It meant the carbon atoms could combine more easily and form diamonds.”
Temperatures present within Neptune and Uranus can reach several thousand degrees Celsius. As for the pressure within their atmosphere, these are millions of times more than ours. Above them, the outer atmosphere made of gasses is one of the coldest places known.
The gasses present creates storms that produce hailstones made out of diamonds. Scientists believed for 40 years now that this has already been happening, and recent studies have so far proven that their hypothesis had been right all along.
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