August 30, 2005

Diamonds are the hardest substance known to man, right? Not anymore:

Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, which is known as aggregated diamond nanorods, is expected to have many industrial applications (App. Phys. Lett. 87 083106).

They've already patented the process and are looking for funding to proceed. Slashdot linked this one up as well (I found it on Instapundit) and the first uses people were coming up with was tool coatings for things like saw blades and grinders. No word on whether this will be the material we can make a space elevator out of, but we're definitely getting close to it.

And no, it's not diamond. The structure is completely different. No word on whether or not it sparkles though.

Posted by scott at August 30, 2005 09:20 AM

eMail this entry!

on the upside, it's not a natural diamond, so you and I are off the hook on buying any (outside of on tools, that is...)

Posted by: ronaprhys on August 30, 2005 09:56 AM

I never did get why women hate any gem that wasn't pulled out of the ground. Synthetics look the same, sparkle the same, even endure wear and tear the same, but if it wasn't dug up by starving slave laborers in Zimbabwe, it just isn't romantic.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on August 30, 2005 12:25 PM

When questioned, the answer is something to the effect of "Do you want our love to be symbolized by something unnatural and not real?" My answer of, "No, I want our love to be symbolized by something not flawed like all natural diamonds are." was not taken well at all.

And from my experience, the one that they get all flustered over is the engagement ring - anything else can be synthetic, but that particular ring HAS to be natural.

Posted by: ronaprhys on August 30, 2005 01:57 PM

I can ohhh and ahhh over gems and jewels but dont really wear a lot. The only diamonds I have are my engagement and wedding rings. And they arent big stones. I just feel weird wearing anything that costs that much. I have never asked Joshua for any jewelry with gems for a gift.

Personally manmade works for me. It makes very pretty stones affordable and without the environmental, etc. impact. The price makes me less afraid to wear them.

Posted by: carrie on August 30, 2005 02:40 PM

Thing is, if market forces were allowed to work NATURAL diamonds would be much cheaper. Natural coincidence placed something like 80% of all diamonds in a single easy-to-control spot in the world, and the DeBeers cartel has managed to leverage this into setting the price for the other 20%. DeBeers executives (as of 2000, when I heard the NPR report on it) can't even travel to this country because (as I recall) they were convicted in-absentia of racketeering in the 90s.

From a Nova special I saw way back in 1996, the only real difference now between artificial diamond and the real ones is artificial ones flouresce under black light. There's a small army of Russian scientists beavering away to get rid of this remaining problem and once they do the gem-quality diamond market will crack open like an egg.

Posted by: Scott on August 30, 2005 02:50 PM

Wow... I'd rather have the fluorescent diamond!

I wonder what causes that? Maybe pure diamond is flourescent, and we never knew it because we've never tested completely pure diamond before?

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on August 30, 2005 02:56 PM

Dunno what causes it. fluorescence in general is caused by highly-excited photons hitting a substance and then being emitted a much lower rate of excitement (hit Wikipedia if you really want to read up on it). However, none of the things that I managed to read had anything about the actual reasons why synthetic diamonds are more fluorescent. However, couple of things worth noting are that natural diamonds can be fluorescent as well as synthetics. Secondarily, the GIA says that the average consumer has basically zero chance of being able to tell a fluorescent diamond from a non-fluorescent one. Even expert observers have issues with this.

Posted by: ronaprhys on August 30, 2005 04:07 PM

Maybe something about the ultra-compact crystal structure of pure diamond causes a lower-frequency (visible light) resonance which impure diamonds lack. Kind of like the difference between striking a crystal chime and striking a cracked chime.

Maybe the natural diamonds that fluoresce just happen to be sufficiently pure, while most others are more impure. It may only take a tiny fault in the crystal lattice to completely prevent fluorescence, which does not occur in any other form of carbon.

Heck, it may even be related to the reason diamonds are transparent and all other forms of nearly pure carbon almost completely absorb all visible light wavelengths.

Then again, maybe I should stop speculating so much.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on August 30, 2005 10:47 PM
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