Third Annual Earth Day Distinguished Lecture
Large "Artificial" Diamonds Made from Gas Are Hardest Yet
Producing a material that is harder than natural diamond has been a goal of scientists for decades. Now a group headed by geophysicist Russell Hemley of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (D.C.), has produced gem-sized diamonds that are harder than any other crystals. The scientists made the diamonds at a rate 100 times faster than other methods used to date. The process opens up a new way of producing diamond crystals for electronics, cutting tools and other applications.
Hemley and colleagues developed a special high-growth-rate chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process to grow the diamond crystals. They then subjected the crystals to high-pressure, high-temperature treatment to further harden the material. The method has been used to "grow" diamonds up to 10 millimeters across and 4.5 millimeters thick. The crystals are at least 50 percent harder than conventional diamonds; the diamonds were so hard they broke the scientists' measuring equipment. The researchers were able to grow the gem-sized crystals in a day.
In celebration of Earth Day 2004, Hemley will speak at the National Science Foundation, which funds the team's research, about the CVD process and the resulting super-diamonds.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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