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Science And Nature

Blasting plastic with powerful lasers turns it into tiny diamonds

Simple plastics could be converted into tiny diamonds with a pulse of laser light, and an identical process might occur inside giant planets, that could explain a few of their mysteries

Physics 2 September 2022

By Leah Crane

Diamond with tweezers and magnifier.Gemstone Beauty ; Shutterstock ID 1928999420; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

Small diamonds could be created with a robust laser blast

Shutterstock/tonkid

Blasting plastic with powerful lasers can make tiny diamonds. Similar processes might occur at the high temperatures and pressures found within planets, that could help explain why Uranus and Neptune are so strange.

Researchers have already been in a position to create nanodiamonds before by shining lasers at an assortment of carbon and hydrogen, nonetheless it required extraordinarily high pressures. Siegfried Glenzer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California and his colleagues discovered that through the use of a straightforward plastic called PET popular to create bottles along with other containers which contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, they might make diamonds in significantly less extreme conditions.

If they fired a robust laser at the plastic, it heated around temperatures between 3200C and 5800C and the shock waves generated by the laser pulse brought the plastic to pressures up to 72 gigapascals add up to one-fifth the pressure in Earths core. This separated the hydrogen and oxygen from the carbon, abandoning tiny diamonds several nanometres across and a kind of water called superionic water, which conducts electricity easier than regular water.

This happened at lower pressures than in previous experiments using other materials, says Glenzer, and like PET, the interiors of giant planets contain oxygen along with carbon and hydrogen.

What which means is that diamonds are most likely everywhere, says Glenzer. If it happens at lower pressures than previously seen, this means theyre inside Uranus, inside Neptune, inside some moons such as for example Titan, that have hydrocarbons.

Such diamonds forming in Neptunes mantle and sinking towards its core, generating friction and heat along the way, could explain whythe planetis unexpectedly hot. And within Uranus, pockets of superionic water left from diamond formation could possibly be conducting electric currents, which can have something regarding the strange form of its magnetic field.

One next thing would be to include this technique in types of those worlds and see if it could account for a few of their many mysteries, says Glenzer. Another would be to collect the nanodiamonds once they form. Similar materials already are found in industrial abrasive processes and may be useful in lots of scientific applications, but are usually made by detonating explosives.

In another experiments, where in fact the necessary pressure was higher, the conditions were so extreme and dynamic that the diamonds finished up falling apart, says Glenzer. Given that weve found a method to make the diamonds at lower pressure, we might have to be able to actually harvest the diamonds.

Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo0617

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