Simply brilliant: UF/Russian team makes gem-quality diamonds

August 18, 1999

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Like Superman squeezing a lump of coal in his mighty fist, scientists and engineers from the University of Florida and Russia are speeding up Mother Nature's handiwork through creating gem-quality diamonds with man-made heat and pressure.

Using what they describe as a remarkable new technology first developed in Russia, the team has created yellow, amber, green and colorless diamonds as large as 1.6 carats since making their first attempt about a year ago. The research, funded largely by a company that intends to sell what it calls "cultured diamonds" for jewelry, is leading to a better understanding of how to make diamonds and other crystals not only for jewelry, but also for next-generation high-speed electronics.

"Our goal has been to understand the science and technology behind growing crystals," said Reza Abbaschian, chairman of UF's materials science and engineering department.

People have been able to make gem-quality diamonds since the 1960s, but the machines were huge and the cost exceeded that of mining natural diamonds, Abbaschian said. As a result, diamond research and manufacturing efforts have centered on producing industrial diamonds for cutting tools, abrasive materials or other uses.

In the 1980s, however, a team of Russian scientists in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk developed a small, high-pressure, high-temperature machine capable of making low-cost, gem-quality diamonds.

About the size of a washing machine, the device starts with a carbon source and a shard of a real diamond called a "seed." The machine squeezes the seed with increasingly higher pressure topping out at 850,000 pounds per square inch. Other equipment heats the core to 2,000 to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The high pressure and high temperatures transform the seed into a bigger diamond.

The machines require very little electricity and are not expensive to build, but the Russian researchers were unable to make them consistently produce diamonds of the same color or quality, Abbaschian said. That's where UF's research came in.

"Our objective has been to be able to control the process," he said. "Once we control the processing parameters, we can modify them to get different results."

Since the UF/Russian team attempted to make its first diamond in one of five machines imported from Russia about a year ago, the team has made more than 230 gem-quality diamonds at UF. Though the largest so far is 1.6 carats, the machines theoretically should be capable of producing diamonds up to 5 carats, Abbaschian said. It takes about 50 hours to grow a one-carat diamond, he said.

Like natural diamonds, the UF-produced diamonds are 100 percent carbon and harder than any natural substance. A typical jeweler could not distinguish between real diamonds and the UF diamonds, Abbaschian said The only difference is at the atomic level; real diamonds contain paired nitrogen atoms, while the UF-made diamonds contain single atoms.

The Gemesis Corp., a small Florida company, plans to draw on the research to produce diamonds for jewelry at a facility in Gainesville, said Carter Clarke, chief executive officer. "What Dr. Abbaschian and his crew have done is to turn this scientific endeavor into a commercially viable enterprise," said Clarke, an entrepreneur and retired U.S. Army general. "We know now that we can produce a quality, consistent product."

The UF/Russian research team hopes to take the project far beyond gem-quality diamonds. Abbaschian said diamonds with certain properties are highly effective semiconductors capable of operating at higher power and temperatures than traditional silicon semiconductors. Natural diamonds with such properties are extremely rare, and the UF/Russian team hopes to use the machines to learn more about whether and how such diamonds might be created.

The UF team is composed of Abbaschian; Rajiv Singh, a professor of materials science and engineering; and Robert Chodelka, a research faculty member. The Russian members are Alexander Novikov, Nikolay Patrin, Vasili Kacholov and Lidia Patrina.
-end-


University of Florida

Related Technology Articles from Brightsurf:

December issue SLAS Technology features 'advances in technology to address COVID-19'
The December issue of SLAS Technology is a special collection featuring the cover article, ''Advances in Technology to Address COVID-19'' by editors Edward Kai-Hua Chow, Ph.D., (National University of Singapore), Pak Kin Wong, Ph.D., (The Pennsylvania State University, PA, USA) and Xianting Ding, Ph.D., (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China).

October issue SLAS Technology now available
The October issue of SLAS Technology features the cover article, 'Role of Digital Microfl-uidics in Enabling Access to Laboratory Automation and Making Biology Programmable' by Varun B.

Robot technology for everyone or only for the average person?
Robot technology is being used more and more in health rehabilitation and in working life.

Novel biomarker technology for cancer diagnostics
A new way of identifying cancer biomarkers has been developed by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Technology innovation for neurology
TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.

April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.

Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).

Read More: Technology News and Technology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.