The pressure's on: making diamonds that are harder than diamond

Wednesday 20 October 2021 10am

Imagine telling your boss that you need to spend $1000 each on two diamonds – for work. But you will use them to create more diamonds!  The catch? You will probably break them in the process (so maybe we’d better get some spares).

In this talk Professor Jodie Bradby takes us into her research into high pressure materials, especially diamonds.

Creating these high-pressure experiments relies on the hardest material – diamond – which enables her group use to explore the formation of more diamonds. This includes a harder form called Lonsdaleite, made with a hexagonal arrangement of carbon atoms (instead of the cubic pattern in normal diamonds) and is predicted to be 50% harder.

But the process is fraught – she knows the sound of a diamond cracking all too well. Luckily, diamonds confiscated from smugglers – which cannot be re-sold – can be used for science, which cuts the otherwise “eye-wateringly high” costs.

In this talk Professor Bradby relates her success stories – turning a graphite sample into a transparent diamond (“imagine looking through a pencil”) and how they proved they had indeed made Lonsdaleite.

If all this effort to create gemstones seems frivolous, Professor Bradby reminds us that diamonds drills are widely used in industry and a hard, lonsdaleite tip would be a massive boon.

Sixties research into making diamonds has led us to a place where, instead of diamond presses, chemical vapour deposition is used to create diamonds (“a machine that looks a bit like a microwave”) and Professor Bradby hopes her research will lead to much more attainable Lonsdaleite too.


Prof Jodie Bradby
T: (02)61254916

Related news stories

How to make instant diamonds

An international team of scientists has found a way to speed up the creation of diamonds, making them in a room-temperature lab in mere minutes. One of the lead researchers, Professor Jodie Bradby, said their breakthrough shows that Superman may have had a similar trick up his sleeve when he crushed...

New diamond harder than ring bling

The Australian National University (ANU) has led an international project to make a diamond that’s predicted to be harder than a jeweller’s diamond and useful for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites.   ANU Associate Professor Jodie Bradby said her team –...

Purple diamonds - stunning jewellery or revolutionary technology?

With the world record sale of a purple diamond for $29.3M, it seemed the right time to chat to our diamond expert, Professor Neil Manson, about what a diamond actually is, and how one determines if they are “pure” and “flawless”. Not surprisingly, the media hype doesn’t...

Travelling the world in search of diamonds

Tom Shiell has the travel bug – during his PhD he's made good use of the international connections that ANU has. During his two and a half years of study, he's spent close to a year at labs in Washington DC, Oak Ridge in Tennessee and the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron in Chicago. And he has regular...