Scientists have developed a groundbreaking technique to synthesize diamonds at normal atmospheric pressure without the need for a starter gem, potentially simplifying the production of these precious gemstones in the lab.

Traditionally, natural diamonds form in Earth’s mantle, the molten zone buried hundreds of miles beneath the planet’s surface. This natural process occurs under immense pressures of several gigapascals and scorching temperatures exceeding 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius).

The conventional method for synthesizing diamonds, known as high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) growth, mimics these extreme conditions. This process involves dissolving carbon in liquid metals, such as iron, and converting it to diamond around a small seed or starter diamond under high pressures and temperatures. However, generating and maintaining these conditions is challenging. Additionally, the process limits the size of the diamonds produced, with the largest being about a cubic centimeter, roughly the size of a blueberry. Furthermore, HPHT is time-consuming, taking one to two weeks to produce these small gems.

Another method, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), reduces some of the HPHT requirements, like high pressures, but still necessitates the use of seeds.

The new technique, developed by Rodney Ruoff, a physical chemist at the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea, overcomes several drawbacks of both HPHT and CVD methods. The team’s findings were published on April 24 in the journal Nature.

The Diamond Crucible

This innovative method has been in development for over a decade. “For over a decade, I have been thinking about new ways to grow diamonds, as I thought it might be possible to achieve this in what might be unexpected (per ‘conventional’ thinking) ways,” Ruoff shared with Live Science via email.

This novel approach eliminates the need for high pressures and starter gems, potentially revolutionizing the diamond synthesis industry by making the process more accessible and efficient. The new method opens up possibilities for producing larger and more affordable lab-grown diamonds, which could have significant implications for both industrial applications and the jewelry market.

By Impact Lab