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Scientists manage to turn plastic into diamonds

Siegfried Glenzer of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California and his colleagues used PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic sheeting of the style used for food and beverage packaging, it is made of petroleum (hydrocarbon ). Heated by a laser beam between 3200°C and 5800°C, the plastic is compressed under a weight equal to millions of times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure (72 gigapascals) for a few billionths of a second. Coming out of the experiment, the plastic molecules had been transformed into a nanodiamond and a kind of water called superionic water, which conducts electricity more easily than ordinary water.

What that means is that diamonds are probably everywhere“in the Universe,” Glenzer told NewScientist.

Until now, diamonds of this type have mainly been produced by detonating explosives“, explains to Eurekalert professor Dominik Kraus, of the University of Rostock, in Germany, and co-author of the study. But the laser option would allow a much cleaner production ecologically.

If this discovery could well help the industry (and the planet?), it also makes it possible to understand what is happening inside planets of our solar system like the giants of ice Neptune and Uranus. Both of these planets contain carbon, hydrogen and large amounts of oxygen. Temperatures on Neptune and Uranus reach several thousand degrees Celsius and the pressure is millions of times that of Earth’s atmosphere, all the ingredients needed for the creation of diamonds. The new study published in Science Advances therefore confirms that it is literally raining diamonds on these ice giants.

In the other experiments, where the pressure needed was much higher, the conditions were so extreme and dynamic that the diamonds eventually collapsed.“, Glenzer concludes.”Now that we have found a way to make the diamonds at a lower pressure, we may have a chance of actually harvesting the diamonds.