Focus: GS III: Science and Technology
Why in News?
Five-year research grant to encourage indigenous production of lab-grown diamonds (LGD) machinery, seeds and recipe given to IIT-Madras.
What are lab grown diamonds?
- Lab grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds.
- They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LDGs are chemically, physically and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab grown.”
- While materials such as Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia (CZ), White Sapphire, YAG, etc. are “diamond simulants” that simply attempt to “look” like a diamond, they lack the sparkle and durability of a diamond and are thus easily identifiable.
- However, differentiating between an LDG and an Earth Mined Diamond is hard, with advanced equipment required for the purpose.
How are LDGs produced?
- The most common (and cheapest) is the “High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method.
- As the name suggests, this method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius).
- Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
- Other processes include “Chemical Vapor Deposition” (CVD) and explosive formation that creates what are known as “detonation nanodiamonds”.
What are Lab-Grown Diamonds (LDGs) used for?
- LDGs have properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion which gives them the diamond sheen.
- They are often used for industrial purposes in machines and tools due to their hardness and extra strength.
- LDGs have high thermal conductivity but negligible electrical conductivity which makes them valuable for electronics.
- With the depletion of natural diamonds, LDGs are becoming a replacement for the precious gemstone in the jewelry industry.
- The growth in production of LDGs does not affect India’s established diamond industry that involves polishing and cutting of diamonds.