Artificial Diamonds and the Various Applications in Modern Technologies
Natural diamonds are the result of carbon deposition deep within the earth. When the carbon deposition 90 to 125 miles below the surface is subjected to high temperature and pressure, the diamonds are formed over several million to billions of years.
The deep-source volcanic eruptions pushed the stones closer to the surface through kimberlite pipes, which we mine today.
What Are Artificial Diamonds
Artificial diamonds are produced in weeks by imitating a similar or a different process in labs. The lab-grown diamonds are similar in chemical and physical properties to natural ones but are cheaper.
They hold the same reflective properties as mined diamonds, but aren’t considered as luxurious as natural diamonds due to their increased availability and cheaper price point.
The first lab-grown diamond was made in the 1950s, but it took more than 60 years to create gem-quality diamonds.
The most practiced method of producing artificial diamonds is chemical vapor deposition (CVD). A thin slice of diamond is taken as the “seed” and methane gas is broken down into carbon atoms that accumulate over the seed to imitate the covalent bonds between the carbon atoms of the diamond.
Since the physical properties of CVD diamonds are similar to mined diamonds, they are widely accepted as gemstones.
How Artificial Diamonds Are Produced
Depending on the usage, monocrystalline and polycrystalline artificial diamonds are produced in labs. The monocrystalline structures offer greater longevity, usage, and are often used as gems. The polycrystalline structures are easier to manufacture, have rough shapes, and are used in grinding wheels.
The most common method to produce artificial diamonds, as discussed, is CVD. But various other methods are employed to obtain artificial diamonds.
Early artificial diamonds were produced from graphite. The material was heated at 2800 – 5500℉ and subjected to a pressure of 5.2 to 10.35 MPa. Iron, cobalt, nickel, and radium were used as catalysts in this reaction. The products (diamonds) produced in this way illustrated a greater grinding and cutting performance than natural diamonds.
We already discussed the CVD method. The diamonds prepared in this method are more crystalline and refined.
Latest efforts to make artificial diamonds include manufacturing large crystals of diamonds through the high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) method. The limitation presented in this process is the requirement for press time. Thus the cost goes significantly higher. However, the diamonds made through HPHT illustrate a much higher clarity than diamonds produced from graphites.
Lab Grown Diamonds in the Jewelry Industry
Are lab grown diamonds real? This question has been looming over the diamond industry for the better part of the last decade. The simple answer would be yes. Lab grown diamonds aren’t cubic zirconias and aren’t fake. They show a similar physical and chemical property as mined diamonds.
Though the natural diamond market is still at large, they’ve taken a heavy hit in recent times. With more and more research papers indicating the similarity between lab-grown and natural diamonds, the financial aspect of the products has proved to be a significant factor.
Marketing has made diamonds what they are today. DeBeers’ marketing campaigns still focus on the forever diamond promise. But the newer campaigns that targeted women weren’t as effective as they thought they would be. The natural diamond market has also taken a hit among the millennials due to the discovery of human exploitation by the industry.
Artificial diamonds, being significantly cheaper, are gaining traction in the wedding and fashion market for a long time now. The global lab-grown diamond market is expected to reach $49.9 billion by 2030 from $19.3 billion in 2020.
Necklaces, stud earrings, bracelets, and diamond rings are major products that are made with artificial diamonds. The newer generations have inclined towards lab-grown diamonds due to their affordability. Moreover, it takes specialized equipment to differentiate between modern lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds. Artificial diamonds are often described as “better” than natural diamonds. The controlled environments are to be blamed for that.
Application of Artificial Diamonds in Technology
In addition to the jewelry industry, artificial monocrystalline and polycrystalline diamonds are used in several technological and mechanical tools.
- Grinding Wheels
Diamonds, being the hardest material known to us, are used in the grinding wheels. The diamonds used in grinding wheels aren’t cut or polished. But the price of these industrial artificial diamonds varies on their size and shape.
Octahedron, Dodecahedron, and octahedron-shaped diamonds are mostly used in grinding wheels. The longevity of the tools is determined by the size of the diamonds.
- Mining Drills
Diamond core bits are used in mining drills. Bits are bars made of diamond chips that can pierce through any material present on the surface. Polycrystalline diamond compounds (PDC) are now used in mining drills as replacements for natural diamonds. Before diamond bits in 1863, the mining operations were handled through manual labor.
- Glass Cutter
Annealed glasses tend to break apart from the lining made by diamond glass cutters. The glass cutter tools are fitted with a pointed diamond that creates the “score line”. Workers are expected to break the glass by applying pressure on either side of the split. Tempered glasses can’t be cut through the process as they are more prone to shattering than breaking.
- Semiconductor Heat Sinks
Artificial polycrystalline diamond heat sinks are used as a cooling material for the silicon chips used in sensitive electronic devices. Generally, the devices that produce heat, like laser diodes, are fitted with CVT diamonds to transmit the heat out of the package.
- Laser Window Materials
Laser windows are fittings that let users observe the laser behaviors. Artificial diamonds, being high in clarity, are used as a material to build laser windows. The application for laser windows isn’t limited to observation though. It can be used to let human workers operate in rooms fitted with high-intensity lasers.
- Surgical Scalpel
Although limited, diamond surgical instruments are gaining popularity with the introduction of CVT diamonds. The diamond blades are rust-proof and cut through the surface much more cleanly than any other material.
The Bottom Line
Artificial diamonds are lab-made diamonds that are similar in properties to natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds have been used in the jewelry industry for the last few decades. However, rough diamonds find their application in several industrial and technological applications. Grinding wheels, mining drills, and glass cutters are made with artificial diamonds. Premium semiconductor heat sinks, surgical scalpels, and laser windows are also made with lab-grown diamonds.