Research indicates that it rains diamonds across the universe

Uranus and Neptune, the ice giants where scientists believe diamond rain falls below the surface

Uranus and Neptune, the ice giants where scientists believe diamond rain falls below the surface.

Scientists on Friday suggested it rains diamonds on planets across the universe, after using shared plastics to recreate strange precipitation thought to form in the depths of Uranus and Neptune.

Scientists had previously assumed that extremely high pressure and temperatures convert hydrogen and carbon into hard diamonds thousands of kilometers below the surface of the ice giants.

Now a new research, published in science progresshe introduced oxygen into the mix, and found that “diamond rain” could be more common than he thought.

Ice giants such as Neptune and Uranus are believed to be the most common form of planets outside our solar system, which means diamond rain can occur throughout the universe.

Dominic Krause, a physicist at the German HZDR Research Laboratory and one of the study’s authors, said diamond precipitation was very different from precipitation on Earth.

Beneath the surface of the planets, he said, he thought a “dense, hot liquid,” as diamonds forms and slowly sinks into potentially Earth-sized rocky cores more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) below.

The falling diamonds can form vast layers stretching “hundreds of kilometers or more,” Krause told AFP.

While these diamonds may not be as shiny and cut as “a beautiful gem on a ring,” he said they were formed through similar forces as on Earth.

Aiming to replicate this process, the research team found the necessary mixture of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in a readily available source – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which is used to fill food and everyday bottles.

While the researchers used very clean PET plastic, Krause said, “in principle, the experiment should work with Coca-Cola bottles.”

The team then operated a high-powered optical laser on plastic at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California.

Krause said that “extremely short X-ray flashes of incredible brightness” allowed them to watch the process of nanodiamonds – diamonds too small to be seen with the naked eye – as they formed.

“The oxygen that’s in large amounts on those planets really helps absorb hydrogen atoms from the carbon, so it’s easier for those diamonds to form,” he added.

A new way to make nanodiamonds?

The experiment could point to a new method for producing nanodiamonds, which has a wide and growing range of applications including drug delivery, medical control, non-invasive surgery, and quantum electronics.

“The way nanodiamonds are currently made is to take a bunch of carbon or diamond and blast them with explosives,” said SLAC scientist and study co-author Benjamin Ofori Okai.

“Laser production could provide a cleaner and more easily controlled method for producing nanodiamonds,” he added.

Diamond rain research is still hypothetical because so little is known about Uranus and Neptune, the farthest planets in our solar system.

Only one spacecraft—NASA’s Voyager 2 in the 1980s—has passed through two ice giants, and the data it sent back is still used for research.

But the NASA group has identified a possible new mission to the planets, likely to be launched in the next decade.

“That would be great,” Krause said.

He said he’s very much looking forward to more data — even if it takes a decade or two.

‘Diamond rain’ on icy giant planets may be more common than previously thought

more information:
Zhiyu He et al, Diamond formation kinetics in shock-compressed CHO samples recorded by small-angle X-ray scattering and X-ray diffraction, science progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abo0617.

© 2022 AFP

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