What goes on inside planets like Neptune and Uranus? To find out, an international team headed by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), the University of Rostock and France’s École Polytechnique conducted a novel experiment. They fired a laser at a thin film of simple PET plastic and investigated what happened using intensive laser flashes. One result was that the researchers were able to confirm their earlier thesis that it really does rain diamonds inside the ice giants at the periphery of our solar system. And another was that this method could establish a new way of producing nanodiamonds, which are needed, for example, for highly-sensitive quantum sensors. The group has presented its findings in the journal Science Advances.
“Up to now, we used hydrocarbon films for these kinds of experiment,” explains Dominik Kraus, physicist at HZDR and professor at the University of Rostock. “And we discovered that this extreme pressure produced tiny diamonds, known as nanodiamonds.”
Using these films, however, it was only partially possible to simulate the interior of planets—because ice giants not only contain carbon and hydrogen but also vast amounts of oxygen. When searching for suitable film material, the group hit on an everyday substance: PET, the resin out of which ordinary plastic bottles are made. “PET has a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate the activity in ice planets,” Kraus explains.
The team conducted its experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, the location of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a powerful, accelerator-based X-ray laser. They used it to analyze what happens when intensive laser flashes hit a PET film, employing two measurement methods at the same time: X-ray diffraction to determine whether nanodiamonds were produced and so-called small-angle scattering to see how quickly and how large the diamonds grew.
A big helper: Oxygen
“The effect of the oxygen was to accelerate the splitting of the carbon and hydrogen and thus encourage the formation of nanodiamonds,” says Dominik Kraus, reporting on the results. “It meant the carbon atoms could combine more easily and form diamonds.” This further supports the assumption that it literally rains diamonds inside the ice giants. The findings are probably not just relevant to Uranus and Neptune but to innumerable other planets in our galaxy as well. While such ice giants used to be thought of as rarities, it now seems clear that they are probably the most common form of planet outside the solar system.
Precision plant for nanodiamonds
In addition to this rather fundamental knowledge, the new experiment also opens up perspectives for a technical application: The tailored production of nanometer-sized diamonds, which are already included in abrasives and polishing agents. In the future, they are supposed to be used as highly-sensitive quantum sensors, medical contrast agents and efficient reaction accelerators, for splitting CO2 for example. “So far, diamonds of this kind have mainly been produced by detonating explosives,” Kraus explains. “With the help of laser flashes, they could be manufactured much more cleanly in the future.”
A high-performance laser fires ten flashes per second at a PET film, which is illuminated by the beam at intervals of a tenth of a second. The nanodiamonds thus created shoot out of the film and land in a collecting tank filled with water. There they are decelerated and can then be filtered and effectively harvested. The essential advantage of this method in contrast to production by explosives is that “the nanodiamonds could be custom cut with regard to size or even doping with other atoms,” Dominik Kraus says. “The X-ray laser means we have a lab tool that can precisely control the diamonds’ growth.”
Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology (DGIST, President Yang Kook) Professor Hongsoo Choi’s team of the Department of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering collaborated with Professor Sung-Won Kim’s team at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, [...]
Tiny nets woven from DNA strands can ensnare the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19, lighting up the virus for a fast-yet-sensitive diagnostic test—and also impeding the virus from infecting cells, opening [...]
Roughly two decades ago, a strategy called optogenetics emerged to control brain activity with lasers. It uses viruses to insert genes into cells that make them sensitive to light. Optogenetics has revolutionized neuroscience by giving researchers [...]
Shigella bacteria, which causes Shigellosis, is the primary cause of bacterial diarrhea and diarrheal death among juveniles under five years of age. Because of the antibiotic resistance of Shigella strains, no commercial vaccines are available to date. [...]
Scientists have built microscopic robots equipped with electronic “brains” that are capable of walking autonomously. A team from Cornell University in the US developed the solar-powered bots as part of research into a new generation of [...]
Blood samples from patients with long COVID who are still suffering from fatigue and shortness of breath after a year show signs of autoimmune disease, according to a study published today (Thursday) [...]
High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is among the deadliest human cancers and its prognosis remains extremely poor. An article published in Advanced Science explored the self-therapeutic properties of gold nanoparticles to identify a molecular axis that [...]
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity and lyse microbial cells by interaction with biomembranes, offering great potential in designing new therapeutics. The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) caused due to overuse of [...]
Tumor cells are notoriously good at evading the human immune system; they put up physical walls, wear disguises and handcuff the immune system with molecular tricks. Now, UC San Francisco researchers have developed a [...]
Hyperspectral microscopy is an advanced visualization technique that combines hyperspectral imaging with state-of-the-art optics and computer software to enable rapid identification of nanomaterials. Since hyperspectral datacubes are large, their acquisition is complicated and time-consuming. [...]
Malignant brain tumors are cancerous growth in the brain with the possibility of spreading to other parts of the central nervous system (CNS). Brain tumors are highly invasive and have devastating consequences, poor prognosis, [...]
An ultrathin invention could make future computing, sensing and encryption technologies remarkably smaller and more powerful by helping scientists control a strange but useful phenomenon of quantum mechanics, according to new research recently published [...]
Methacrylate-based materials are often used in bone cement and dental resins. However, they have high failure rates as they undergo damage within ten years, impacting the quality of patient’s life and increasing healthcare costs. [...]
Early diagnosis of an infectious viral disease can help the patients and health care professionals monitor the outbreaks accurately and provide treatment at the early stage of a disease, avoiding any detrimental consequences. The [...]
Researchers at Duke University have developed a unique type of nanoparticle called a “nanorattle” that greatly enhances light emitted from within its outer shell. Loaded with light scattering dyes called Raman reporters commonly used [...]
A household microwave oven modified by a Cornell Engineering professor is helping to cook up the next generation of cellphones, computers and other electronics after the invention was shown to overcome a major challenge [...]