A group of scientists at Augsburg University, Germany have grown what is being claimed to be the largest Lab-grown diamond – a 155 carat diamond in disc form, with 92 millimetres diameter. Grown using CVD tech at around 1/10th of atmospheric pressure, this diamond though has limited jewelry use but opens up a plethora of applications in mechanics, optics and electronics.
University of Augsburg has been researching and growing diamonds since 1991. In the following 25 years, the team of scientists at Augsburg Chair for Experimental Physics IV led by Dr. Matthias Schreck had committed themselves at producing a single crystal covering a large area. During the course of time, they identified iridium as the most suitable growth substrate. Initially, when they used their first CVD machine, the first run provided a covering layer made up of diamond crystals with a decent structural quality. However, the edges of the individual particles did not stick together and therefore it did not produce a single crystal covering a large area.
To approach the goal of monocrystalline layers, Dr. Stefan Gsell and Dr. Martin Fisher did their PhDs on this subject and have been working for over 10 years leading to this significant breakthrough. A diamond is formed in the laboratories in Augsburg under specific process conditions. Hydrocarbon molecules deposit on the surface from the gas phase, allowing diamond crystals to grow layer by layer. While naturally, graphite transforms into a diamond because of the immense pressure and temperature inside earth. There is no difference between the two, even under a microscope.
“It was fascinating to open the reactor after several days of growth under several thousand degrees of hot plasma discharge and to take out first large area single crystal wafer samples,” Gsell describes.
The largest Lab-grown diamond is also said to surpass the largest mined diamond in terms of its surface area. While, Cullinan I weights 532 carats, which is far ahead than this 155 carat Lab-grown diamond, 92 millimetre diameter of Augsburg’s Lab-grown diamond surpasses it.
Catering to technological needs
These Lab-grown diamonds have immense technology benefits. Dr. Matthias Schreck, Dr. Stefan Gsell and Dr. Martin Fisher in 2015, started Augsburg Diamond Technology GmbH together. Being the CEOs of the startup, Gsell and Fisher are making sure that these diamonds get commercial applications in different fields. It has been reported that European Nuclear Research Center (CERN) in Geneva has recently installed two diamond crystals from Augsburg in their accelerator ring for measurements.
The Augsburg wafers, as the scientist call them could also produce more energy from renewable resources.
“Since the beginning of my work at the University of Augsburg, I constantly hear among the diamond community that diamond is the ultimate material for high-performance electronics, as it is needed for upgrades to modern power grids” Schreck remarks.
A team of researchers from Europe have joined in to for the ‘GreenDiamond’ network to make progress in this field.
Growing demand of Lab-grown diamonds among jewelry buyers
While Lab-grown diamonds clearly cater to the high-end requirements of next-gen technology, their use cases in jewelry are also on the rise. Ada Diamonds, launched by the husband-wife team of Jason Payne and Lindsay Reinsmith are on a mission to deliver ethical and sustainable fine jewelry. The company has found that there are specific needs of a customer and there aren’t many options available to satisfy their demands.
The company is raising capital to invest more into growing and cutting of diamonds to meet consumer demands. The Silicon Valley Jewelers are opening a second showroom in downtown San Francisco to cater to their clients there.