Lab-grown diamond characteristics solve technological blockades

Lab-grown diamond
[Image Courtesy: VDI nachrichten, ingenia.org.uk, Element Six]

Soon after Element Six – a De Beers group company came into existence, a group of UK universities earned funding to establish Centre of Doctoral Training in Diamond Science and Technology (DST). Though earth mined diamond has been put in use primarily for gems and jewelry purposes since ages, its industrial applications are also significant. However, Lab-grown diamonds used for industrial applications make a business worth multi-billion pounds. The reason behind such significance lies in properties of Lab-grown diamonds.

Lab-grown diamond
[BDI compilation]

Hardness

Evidently, hardness is the first property of diamond exploited for industrial applications. For example in case of oil and gas drilling, Tungsten Carbide was the standard material previously. But drills made of Lab-grown Polycrystalline Diamonds (PCD) are more suitable for the extreme conditions. PCD provide rapid drilling and fewer drills, which saves tool costs. It can work on rock formations that tungsten carbide cannot. In aggressive tests, PCD drill bits perform hundred times better than tungsten carbide. Hence the demand for PCD has become fourfold, to cross 80% of the market in last decade.

Lab-grown diamond
[Image Courtesy: ingenia.org.uk]
For road mending purpose, where the surface is made of asphalt and concrete, PCD pricks used to remove the surface outlast the standard material by 40 times.

In contradiction to these rough and rocky applications, diamond makes its place in the most delicate applications – Surgical instrument made of Single Crystal Diamond (SCD) with extremely fine edge are used in medical surgeries from ophthalmology to neurosurgery.

 

Optical properties

The characteristic of covering wide range of optical spectrum including ultraviolet, visible, infrared and micro-wave, opens the door to numerous possible applications of diamond. The technology of producing high quality thin plated diamonds in the laboratory is making these applications feasible.

The output of high-power CO2 laser had constraints of material properties. High thermal conductivity, low variation of refractive index with temperature and excellent infrared transparency of diamonds have solved technological blockades of high-power CO2 laser.

Spectroscopy, high-power radiofrequency generators, long wavelength infrared imaging, disc lasers, Raman laser are some other fields where diamond is used for its optical characteristics.

 

Stiffness

Several applications of diamond in optics make it an obvious super material in acoustics as well. Mechanical stiffness of diamond plays a major role here. A speaker diaphragm has to vibrate at frequency, may be as high as 20,000 HZ but without flexing. Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation 2012 was given to Element Six and British loudspeaker manufacturer Bowers and Wilkins for developing tweeter dome with Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) diamond.

Lab-grown diamond
[Image Courtesy: Element Six]
Diamond is used for radiation detection as well as where other material properties like volume sensitivity, radiation hardness, temperature insensitivity are essential. Lab-grown diamond detectors were used at CERN for the project that involved Large Hadron Collider.

 

Conductivity

Naturally, diamond is an excellent insulator but it can be converted into material having essential conducting properties by doping technique. These characteristic is a key to waste water treatment technology. Conducting diamond is used for chemical sensing and in analytical chemistry as it is combined with properties like chemical inertness and compatibility with application environment.

Diamond, a five times better conductor of heat is being the cause of array of evolution in electrical and electronics applications.

 

Quantum Technology

Diamond has potential of taking physiology to cellular and sub-cellular level from organ and tissue level through its potential in quantum computing.

 

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