It’s incredibly poetic to think about: Sparkling diamonds raining down from the heavens, covering the ground in a glittering, gazillion dollar carpet.
For years, scientists have theorized that’s what happens on the ice giants at the farthest reaches of our solar system, when the high pressure in the atmosphere squeezes carbon atoms into diamonds.
Now scientists say they have managed mimic conditions found within these planets to produce tiny diamonds in the laboratory.
A team from the US, the UK, and Germany recreated the conditions found deep inside Uranus (HA!) and Neptune and watched as tiny diamonds formed.
Via The Telegraph:
To create the ‘rain’, scientists used a sheet of polystyrene which contains similar intense quantities carbon and the shocked it with extreme soundwaves to recreate the high pressure of the outer planets.
Nearly every carbon atom turned into a small diamond of a few nanometers wide. On Uranus and Neptune, the study authors predict that diamonds would become much larger, maybe millions of carats in weight.
“We can’t go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations,” said Dr Dominik Kraus, scientist at Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany, and lead author on the publication.
“Previously, researchers could only assume that the diamonds had formed. When I saw the results of this latest experiment, it was one of the best moments of my scientific career.”
Researchers think it’s possible that over thousands of years, the diamonds slowly sink through the planets’ ice layers and assemble into a thick layer around the core.
The experts say that the nanodiamonds made on Earth could potentially be harvested to make the tips of precision medical instruments, or used in electronics.