Diamond Strength Put to Test

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It's no secret that diamonds are super strong, but research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists found that the precious stones become even stronger during rapid compression.

Using the Janus laser at the Livermore lab and the Omega laser at the University of Rochester, Livermore scientists and colleagues at Rochester and the University of California, Berkeley, showed that when shock waves are applied to diamond with powerful lasers, it can support almost a million times atmospheric pressure before being crushed.

The research has implications for the technological uses of diamonds, showing that their strength could affect fusion-energy experiments at the Livermore lab's National Ignition Facility, where high-density carbon -- essentially diamond -- is a leading candidate for target capsules.

"But it could also provide insights into the ancient history of natural diamonds found on Earth and in meteorites, where shock waves caused by impact are common," researcher Stewart McWilliams said in a news release.

McWilliams is the lead author of a paper appearing in the upcoming edition of the journal Physical Review B. He conducted the experiments while on a fellowship at the Livermore lab.

Most natural diamonds are formed at high-pressure, high-temperature conditions existing at depths of 87 to 120 miles in the Earth's mantle.

Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years.

In the recent research, the team measured the behavior of natural diamond crystals under shock-wave compression between 1 million and 10 million atmospheres of pressure, and the diamonds were crushed and melted in just a nanosecond, or one billionth of a second.

"What we found is that diamond exhibits considerable strength right up to the point it melts," McWilliams said in a prepared statement.

Earlier research conducted by Livermore scientists showed that diamonds melt at around 6 million atmospheres of pressure and 14,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

This article originally appeared on KCRA.com.

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