A new technique for creating diamonds

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In discovering a new solid state for carbon scientists have also discovered that it is a relatively inexpensive way to produce diamonds.

Professor Jay Narayan of North Carolina State University is the lead author of three papers describing the work that sees Q-carbon join the growing list of carbon solids, a list that includes graphite, graphene, fullerene, amorphous carbon and diamond. He has suggested that the only place Q-carbon might be found in the natural world is in the core of certain planets.

The researchers created Q-carbon by starting with a thin plate of sapphire (other substrates, such as glass or a plastic polymer, will also work). Using a high-power laser beam, they coated the sapphire with amorphous carbon, a carbon form with no defined crystalline structure. They then hit the carbon with the laser again, raising its temperature to about 4,000 Kelvin, and then rapidly cooled, or quenched, the melted carbon. This stage of quenching is where “Q” in Q-carbon comes from.

The researchers have found that, depending on the substrates, tiny diamonds will form within the Q-carbon, suggesting to me that they have actually discovered how diamonds are formed deep below the Earth. The hot high pressure environment there allows Q-carbon to naturally form, and in the process of its solidification diamonds are a byproduct.


  • Tom Billings

    As far as I can tell from a wide range of articles on this subject, including the NCU team’s paper:

    1.) This is dependent on speedy (nanosecond) heating above the Phase Transition, followed by rapid cooling sufficient (The quenching from which the Q in Q-carbon comes) that there is a permanent shift in which electrons in the Carbon atoms do the binding to each other.

    2.) The descriptions of the amorphous carbon used as the starting material spread over the substrate is, …lacking in clarity. The descriptions for amorphous carbon I could find are similarly vague.

    3.) The final material imaged, so far, is *not* a sheet of Q-carbon, but a collection of small crystalline objects lying in the same thin layer above the substrate.

    4.) The ferromagnetism, and even the fluorescence, is interesting, but not what will help us in spaceflight. For that we will need something with the compressive strength of diamond, in sheets, that will bind to either carbon nanotubes, or graphene. These would be in sheets laid between and bonded to, layers of a q-carbon matrix. They will provide the tensile strength and toughness to go with the matrix compressive strength and hardness of the Q-carbon, or the diamond created from it. Such composite materials could make space vehicles far beyond the performance possible today.

    Whether these materials can become possible will be a strong investigative field.

  • I think we both know that the reason some aspects of this process are described “vaguely” is to protect the significant financial value of the process. No reason to give it away when you can quite rightly make many millions selling it to those who need and want it.

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