Diamonds from plastic bottles. Precious stones created in the laboratory

A team of researchers from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center simulated conditions on distant planets. Thanks to experience, it was possible to turn common material into precious stones.

The experiment, conducted by researchers at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), found an unusual application for PET plastic, or polyethylene terephthalate. It is a commonly used substance, incl. down bottle production.

The aim of the experiment was to try to recreate the conditions that prevail on the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune. Extremely high – measured in gigapascals – pressure and the composition of the atmosphere cause the phenomenon to occur there diamond rains.

Stones that are extremely valuable on Earth can – according to some theories – literally fall from the sky there. Since Neptune radiates more energy than the Sun provides it, a theory has also been developed explaining this phenomenon by the friction of diamonds falling at great depths onto the planet’s core.

Laser Matter in Extreme Conditions
Photo Source: © Stanford Linear Accelerator Center | Olivier Bonin

Laser Matter in Extreme Conditions

Diamonds from PET bottles

The SLAC team set out to recreate the conditions of the ice giants by using polyethylene terephthalate. The material from which the bottles are made mainly consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. During the experiment, he was exposed to action a very strong laser called Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC).

The MEC beam generated pairs of shock waves at different velocities and heated the tested material to almost 6,000. degrees Celsius, causing the pressure to rise up to 70 gigapascals. According to the researchers, this could correspond to the conditions that prevail about 10 thousand. km beneath Neptune’s surface and Uranus.

Earth and Neptune - Size Comparison
Photo source: © Public domain

Earth and Neptune – Size Comparison

Under such conditions, when the waves were overlapping each other, the carbon atoms freed from the plastic began to fuse together to form diamonds.

Nanodiamonds from the laboratory

In experimental conditions, the stones created in this way were very small – only a few nanometers wide. According to the researchers, the developed method may in the future be used for the commercial production of nanodiamonds, used incl. for the production of batteries.

Currently, however, one of the problems is not only the nanosize of the precious stones, but also the fact that during their creation they were accelerated to very high speeds, which requires the development of a method to slow them down gently.

Łukasz Michalik, journalist of Gadgetomania

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