Diamonds are the new super material for data storage and material research

[Image Courtesy: Harald Beibel,,]

Diamonds can save data forever

A new and revolutionary entry has occurred to the list of non – gemological applications of the world’s super material – Diamonds. Researchers from City College of New York published their research recently on how a type of defect in the diamond structure could be harnessed to store large amount of data practically, forever!

Digitization of more and more aspects of human world is creating enormous data at every single point of time. But even the modern avenues to store this data are saturating. The standard magnetic hard disk drive has reached its limit to few terabytes whereas the optical disks – CD, DVD and Blue-Ray disks face obstacles of their own, two dimensional nature and diffraction limit of light. Hence, the alternative offered by these scientists is probably a savior to ever exploding big data.

The study lead author, Siddharth Dhomkar, a physicist at City College of New York says,

“We are the first group to demonstrate the possibility of using diamond as a platform for the superdense memory storage.”

Usually, diamond’s atomic structure, if seen through an electron microscope, is a well ordered three dimensional lattice. But sometimes, one carbon is missing in the structure. Moreover, if this vacancy is accompanied by a nitrogen atom next to it, the composite defect is called Nitrogen Vacancy or NV. This defect is present in diamonds to some extent, giving them a characteristic red color. An NV center has tendency to trap an electron. It releases this trapped electron on application of laser pulse on it. The researchers are turning this tendency into potential benefit by considering each nitrogen vacancy a ‘bit’. So, when an electron is attached to the NV, it is ‘1’ and when it doesn’t have this extra electron, it is a ‘0’. Thus, the charge-discharge state logic could be used to develop technology to encode data in the diamond.

Scientists are using Lab-grown diamonds for this research to efficiently control the concentration of nitrogen vacancy canters in the diamond. With this technology, the storage capacity rises to about 100 times than that of the current DVD technology. If scientists could find a way to deal with diffraction limit of light, the capacity can be enhanced further. Based on the Spin and Charge property of the Nitrogen atom, researchers have also proposed an idea of super-resolution microscopy to image things that are smaller than the wavelength of light.


Researchers aim to generate pressure equal to that at the core of Saturn using Lab–grown nanocrystalline diamond

In attempts to create superior materials in laboratory, researchers from University of Birmingham are using pressure greater than that found at the core of the earth. For this, nanocrystalline-diamond micro-anvil has been fabricated by using Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and mask – less lithography techniques. In order to increase the pressure, one way is to reduce the area upon which force is applied. Hence, the ability to create high pressure depends on tininess of the nanocrystalline-diamond anvil. Each anvil, having width of its head just half of the human hair is being built in the University’s manufacturing facility.

Doctor Yogesh Vohra, a professor and university scholar at the UAB College of Arts and Science who is involved in this research says,

“We have achieved 75 percent of the pressure found at the center of the Earth, or 264 gigapascals, using Lab-grown nanocrystalline-diamond micro-anvil, but the goal is one terapascal, which is the pressure close to the center of Saturn. We are one-quarter of the way there.”

It sounds like a tough job, and it is indeed, because 1 terapascal is equal to 147 million pounds per square inch. Survival of these micro-anvils under ultra-high pressure is the biggest obstacle. To this, Vohra’s team has come up with a solution of growing a nanocrystalline pillar of diamond – 30 micrometer wide and 15 micrometer tall on the flat surface at the bottom of a gemstone.

This research will be used to study behavior of metals, alloys and rare earth metals under extreme conditions. Just as carbon turns into diamond due to high pressure and temperature under the earth, some materials may undergo peculiar crystal modification and end up enhancing their own mechanical and physical properties. The outcome of this research has potential application in various industries mainly biomedical, nuclear sciences, aerospace etc.

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