Diamonds are not only a girls best friend, but also have industrial uses.
The application of extreme heat and pressure on carbon forms diamonds. Traditional diamonds come from deep beneath the Earth’s crust approximately 90 miles down. The diamonds then move to the surface with the help of volcanic activity. Diamonds also form in the subduction layers where two continental plates meet and create the pressures and temperatures needed to form diamonds. The De Beers company holds a near monopoly on the mining and sale of diamonds, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of worldwide sales. Several companies have developed the means to create faux or synthetic diamonds to break this stranglehold. Does this Spark an idea?
Cubic Zirconia represents one of the older faux diamond types. It appeared on the market in 1978, when scientists in the former Soviet Union developed the process to create it. It involves melting powdered zirconium oxide at high temperatures. As the mixture cools, cubic zirconia crystals form with the addition of a stabilizer.
High Pressure, High Temperature Method
The application of a high pressures and high temperatures to carbon is another method of producing faux diamonds. This method uses carbon in the form of graphite placed inside of a chamber with a diamond seed. Pressure reaching 58,000 atmospheres followed by heat reaching 2300 degrees Fahrenheit simulates the environment found deep within the Earth’s crust which produces traditional diamonds. Atomized carbon bonds to the diamond seed forming a larger diamond.
Chemical Vapor Disposition Method
In 1998, the Carnegie Geophysical Laboratory developed a method involving the injection of a mixture of methane, hydrogen and nitrogen gas into a chamber and hitting it with charged particles. Carbon freed by the process drops on to a seed diamond at the bottom of the chamber. The carbon bonds with the seed diamond to form larger diamond crystals.
Uses of Faux Diamonds
The fashion and jewelry industry uses cubic zirconia as a low cost replacement for traditional diamonds. High pressure and chemical vapor diamonds have both jewelry and industrial uses. The De Beers company fights their use in the jewelry industry. Court rulings force producers of faux diamonds to call them “cultured diamonds.” Their industrial use ranges from lining drill bits or creating abrasives to the development of diamond-based microchips able to handle higher temperatures than silicon.