Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Diamonds from another planet...

This is one of the coolest pictures I've found of a diamond's crystal lattice. Maybe its not that accurate, but it sure is pretty and I thought it might grab your attention.

It's tiring to always be focused on finished gems. So, let's look at some other diamond curiosities.

You probably already know something about how diamonds are formed. As the story goes, they are formed deep under the crust of the Earth where atoms of carbon grow upon one another in a molten slurry under intense heat and pressure.

They are then blasted to the surface in volcanic pipes. It is convenient that these super-hard crystals arrive in super-soft kimberlite. Diamond mines may be remote, but once found processing the ore is a relative cinch. Even rain and rivers can wash diamonds free.

But, wait there's more. Believe it or not some diamonds come from outer space. In fact, a recent story about "shock synthesized hexagonal nanodiamonds" from a meteorite strike in California grabbed my attention. Thankfully the hit was over 12,900 years ago!

These little guys offer the hypothetical cause for a massive die-off on a continental level of such megafauna as the Channel Island pygmy mammoths. Wow! To think I never even knew they were here first.

And then there are nanodiamonds from inner space, too. I'm talking about tiny micro diamonds that are synthesized in laboratories. Usually polycrystalline - they're not like the single crystal in our picture. They are made in films, i.e. thin coatings not the cinema.

Scientists are having a field day dreaming up uses for these teeny suckers. At Melbourne University they're thinking that carbon-based nanodiamonds may lead to the actual development of quantum computers, using qubits rather than plain old-fashioned bits to store data. Why am I thinking diamond covered q-tips?

Oh yeah, there are also nanodiamond tips. Apparently atomic force microscopes use dip-pen lithography to print advanced circuitry and DNA sequencing. If that don't just beat all, those pens can break down quickly. But not if they are coated in nanodiamonds.

Will miracles never cease? Maybe not. Just today, yet again comes an article - with some precocious comments too - teasing us with the discovery of something even harder than diamonds.

And, I thought that reward already went to Calculus. The theory is that some kind of boron molecule can do the trick. It all sounds confusing and sketchy to me.

I say, "Bring it on". Us diamond cutters could use a break, and some diversion too. Or so it would seem.

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