Thursday, January 24, 2008

Diamond Age

This colorless synthetic diamond may pose a bit of a challenge to the African warlords and the De Beers cartel.

It is grown one carbon atom at a time in a customized CVD (chemical vapor deposition) process. A perfect seed crystal starts the process (over time, Apollo has enlarged the “seed” to wafer scale). The seed is placed in a microwave chamber with a hydrogen + methane plasma heated to 1300 degrees that rains reactive carbon down onto the seed, growing ~1 carat per 12 hours.

Although the manufacturing process should produce diamonds with fewer flaws than mined diamonds, this early diamond has some defects that I could only see with the macro lens (inclusions and a crown notch. I’m just happy to have a version with personality. =)

It is 8mm wide by 2mm deep. Right now the 2mm depth is the critical manufacturing limit, and it affects the ability to do a standard brilliant diamond cut. So this one is flat and wide. But they can make sheets of diamond with this thickness. Imagine a diamond window pane, or semiconductor wafers that can run at 81 Ghz without elaborate cooling.

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