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‘Diamond rain’ on giant icy planets could possibly be more prevalent than previously thought

'Diamond rain' on giant icy planets could be more common than previously thought
Studying a material that a lot more closely resembles the composition of ice giants, researchers discovered that oxygen improves the formation of diamond rain. The team also found evidence that, in conjunction with the diamonds, a recently discovered phase of water, often referred to as hot, black ice can form. Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

A fresh study has discovered that “diamond rain,” a long-hypothesized exotic kind of precipitation on ice giant planets, could possibly be more prevalent than previously thought.

Within an earlier experiment, researchers mimicked the and pressures found deep inside ice giants Neptune and Uranus and, for the very first time, observed diamond rain since it formed.

Investigating this technique in a that more closely resembles the chemical makeup of Neptune and Uranus, scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and their colleagues found that the current presence of oxygen makes diamond formation much more likely, permitting them to form and grow at a wider selection of conditions and throughout more planets.

The brand new study offers a more complete picture of how diamond rain forms on other planets and, here on the planet, may lead to a new method of fabricating nanodiamonds, that have a very variety of applications in drug delivery, medical sensors, noninvasive surgery, sustainable manufacturing, and quantum electronics.

“The sooner paper was the very first time that people directly saw diamond formation from any mixtures,” said Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at SLAC. “Since that time, there were a great deal of experiments with different pure materials. But inside planets, it’s a lot more complicated; there are plenty more chemicals in the mix. Therefore, what we wished to find out here was what type of effect these additional chemicals have.”

The team, led by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Rostock in Germany, and also France’s cole Polytechnique in collaboration with SLAC, published the outcomes today in Science Advances.

You start with plastic

In the last experiment, the researchers studied a plastic-type material made from an assortment of hydrogen and carbon, key the different parts of the entire chemical composition of Neptune and Uranus. But additionally to carbon and hydrogen, ice giants contain other elements, such as for example huge amounts of oxygen.

In the newer experiment, the researchers used PET plasticoften found in food packaging, plastic containers, and containersto reproduce the composition of the planets more accurately.

“PET includes a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate the experience in ice planets,” said Dominik Kraus, a physicist at HZDR and professor at the University of Rostock.

Making nanodiamonds out of bottle plastic
In the experiment, a thin sheet of simple PET plastic was shot at with a laser. The strong laser flashes that hit the foil-like material sample briefly heated it around 6000 degrees Celsius and therefore generated a shock wave that compressed the problem to an incredible number of times the atmospheric pressure for a couple nanoseconds. The scientists could actually determine that tiny diamonds, so-called nanodiamonds, formed beneath the extreme pressure. Credit: HZDR / Blaurock

Oxygen is really a diamond’s companion

The researchers used a high-powered optical laser at the problem in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at SLAC’s Linac Coherent SOURCE OF LIGHT (LCLS) to generate shock waves in your pet. Then, they probed what happened in the plastic with X-ray pulses from LCLS.

Utilizing a method called X-ray diffraction, they watched because the atoms of the material rearranged into small diamond regions. They simultaneously used another method called small-angle scattering, which was not used in the initial paper, to measure how fast and large those regions grew. By using this additional method, these were in a position to determine these diamond regions was raised to some nanometers wide. They discovered that, with the current presence of oxygen in the material, the nanodiamonds could actually grow at lower pressures and temperatures than previously observed.

“The result of the oxygen was to accelerate the splitting of the carbon and hydrogen and therefore encourage the forming of nanodiamonds,” Kraus said. “It meant the carbon atoms could combine easier and form diamonds.”

'Diamond rain' on giant icy planets could be more common than previously thought
At the problem in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at SLACs Linac Coherent SOURCE OF LIGHT, researchers recreated the extreme conditions entirely on Neptune and Uranus and observed the forming of diamond rain. Credit: Olivier Bonin/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Iced-out planets

The researchers predict that diamonds on Neptune and Uranus would become much bigger compared to the nanodiamonds stated in these experimentsmaybe an incredible number of carats in weight. Over a large number of years, the diamonds might slowly sink through the planets’ ice layers and assemble right into a thick layer of bling round the solid planetary core.

The team also found evidence that, in conjunction with the diamonds, superionic water may also form. This recently discovered phase of water, often referred to as “hot, black ice,” exists at extremely high temperatures and pressures. In these extreme conditions, break apart and oxygen atoms form a crystal lattice where the hydrogen nuclei float around freely. Because these free-floating nuclei are electrically charged, superionic water can conduct electric energy and may explain the unusual magnetic fields on Uranus and Neptune.

The findings may possibly also impact our knowledge of planets in distant galaxies, since scientists now believe ice giants will be the most common type of planet outside our solar system.

“We realize that Earth’s core is predominantly manufactured from iron, but many experiments remain investigating the way the presence of lighter elements can transform the conditions of melting and phase transitions,” said SLAC scientist and collaborator Silvia Pandolfi. “Our experiment demonstrates how these elements can transform the conditions where diamonds are forming on ice giants. If you want to accurately model planets, then we have to get as close once we can to the specific composition of the planetary interior.”

Diamonds in the rough

The study also indicates a potential path forward for producing nanodiamonds by laser-driven shock compression of cheap PET plastics. While already contained in abrasives and polishing agents, later on, these tiny gems may potentially be utilized for quantum sensors, medical contrast agents and reaction accelerators for renewable energy.

“Just how nanodiamonds are made is by firmly taking a lot of carbon or diamond and blowing it up with explosives,” said SLAC scientist and collaborator Benjamin Ofori-Okai. “This creates nanodiamonds of varied shapes and sizes and is hard to regulate. What we’re seeing in this experiment is really a different reactivity of exactly the same species under temperature and pressure. In some instances, the appear to be forming faster than others, which implies that the current presence of these other chemicals can increase this technique. Laser production can offer a cleaner and much more easily controlled solution to produce nanodiamonds. If we are able to design methods to change some reasons for having the reactivity, we are able to change how quickly they form and for that reason what size they get.”

Next, the researchers are organizing similar experiments using liquid samples containing ethanol, water and ammoniawhat Uranus and Neptune are mostly made ofwhich provides them even nearer to understanding just how diamond rain forms on other planets.

“The truth that we are able to recreate these to observe how these procedures play from very fast, really small scales is exciting,” said SLAC scientist and collaborator Nicholas Hartley. “Adding oxygen brings us closer than ever before to seeing the entire picture of the planetary processes, but there’s still more work to be achieved. It is a step on the highway towards obtaining the most realistic mixture and seeing how these materials truly behave on other .”

More info: Zhiyu He et al, Diamond formation kinetics in shock-compressed C-H-O samples recorded by small-angle X-ray scattering and X-ray diffraction, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo0617.

Citation: ‘Diamond rain’ on giant icy planets could possibly be more prevalent than previously thought (2022, September 2) retrieved 3 September 2022 from

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