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.”
The incorporation of exotic DNA from wild relatives into wheat results in a remarkable yield increase of up to 50%, even in hot weather, surpassing elite lines without these genes. Amid a year of [...]
Australia has become the first country to recognise psychedelics as medicines, after the Therapeutic Goods Administration took researchers by surprise and approved the psychedelic substances in magic mushrooms and MDMA for use by people [...]
In a new study, scientists with the University of Florida have found that a combination of silver nanoparticles and antibiotics is effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers hope to turn this discovery into viable [...]
Peritoneal cancer is difficult to treat and has a poor survival prognosis. But a new and effective nanomedicine delivery system is offering some hope. The company is called NaDeNo and is well underway with [...]
According to a new study by researchers at Penn Medicine, ketamine, which is well-known as an anesthetic and is becoming increasingly popular as an antidepressant, dramatically reorganizes activity in the brain, almost as if [...]
A new immunotherapy releases cancer-killing cytokines only within the tumor. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have developed a new T cell-based immunotherapy that selectively targets cancer cells, producing a powerful anti-cancer cytokine [...]
An AI was tasked with creating proteins with anti-microbial properties. Researchers then created a subset of the proteins and found some did the job. An AI has designed anti-microbial proteins that were then tested [...]
Treating cancer with combinations of drugs can be more effective than using a single drug. However, figuring out the optimal combination of drugs, and making sure that all of the drugs reach the right [...]
By one unique metric, we could approach technological singularity by the end of this decade, if not sooner. A translation company developed a metric, Time to Edit (TTE), to calculate the time it takes for professional [...]
Phase transition in early universe changes strength of interaction between dark and normal matter. Dark matter remains one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics. It is clear that it must exist, because without [...]
Summary: Researchers have developed a new family of nano-scale capsules capable of carrying CRISPR gene editing tools to different organs of the body before harmlessly dissolving. The capsules were able to enter the brains of [...]
An enzyme that defends human cells against viruses can help drive cancer evolution towards greater malignancy by causing myriad mutations in cancer cells, according to a study led by investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine. The [...]
Using a mouse model, Japanese researchers unleash the likely mechanism of action of Actinidia arguta (sarunashi) juice on lung cancer development. Lung cancer is a leading cause of death in Japan and across the [...]
When used as wearable medical devices, stretchy, flexible gas sensors can identify health conditions or issues by detecting oxygen or carbon dioxide levels in the breath or sweat. They also are useful for monitoring [...]
Novel drugs, such as vaccines against covid-19, among others, are based on drug transport using nanoparticles. Whether this drug transport is negatively influenced by an accumulation of blood proteins on the nanoparticle’s surface was [...]
The costly lesson from COVID: why elimination should be the default global strategy for future pandemics
Imagine it is 2030. Doctors in a regional hospital in country X note an expanding cluster of individuals with severe respiratory disease. Rapid whole-genome sequencing identifies the disease-causing agent as a novel coronavirus. Epidemiological [...]