Gulf News |  Scientists are developing a technology to turn plastic waste into diamonds!

Gulf News | Scientists are developing a technology to turn plastic waste into diamonds!

Scientists have found a way to make diamonds from used plastic bottles. It is a technology that can help reduce plastic waste.

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This recycled nanodiamond has a wide range of applications, including medical sensors and drug delivery.

The team of scientists from the Helmholtz Dresden Rosendorf Center (HZDR), the University of Rostock and the French Polytechnic School, designed an experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) at the National Accelerator Laboratory in California, this exciting experiment to learn more about the phenomenon of “diamond rain” on icy giant planets such as Neptune and Uranus.

Inside these icy giant planets, temperatures reach several thousand degrees Celsius, and pressures are millions of times greater than in the Earth’s atmosphere.

These conditions are thought to be able to break apart hydrocarbons, then compress the carbon component into diamonds that sink deep into the planet’s cores.

To mimic this process, the scientists fired a high-powered laser at polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a hydrocarbon commonly used in single-use packaging, and found that the shock wave generated by these flashes saw tiny diamond-like structures grow.

“Polyethylene terephthalate has a good balance of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate activity in icy planets,” said Dominic Krause, a physicist at the Helmholtz Center Dresden Rosendorf (HZDR) and a professor at the University of Rostock.

It is known that a mixture of compounds composed of hydrogen and carbon are found about 5,000 miles below the surface of Uranus and Neptune.

This includes methane, a molecule with only one carbon bonded to four hydrogen atoms, which causes Neptune’s characteristic blue colour.

In a 2017 study, the National Accelerator Laboratory team successfully simulated the diamond rain process for the first time by shooting an optical laser at polystyrene.

Polystyrene was used to mimic the structure of methane, since it also contains only hydrogen and carbon.

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The intense X-rays produced shock waves inside the material, and the scientists observed the incorporation of carbon atoms into tiny diamond structures that were a few nanometers wide.

“It’s more complex inside planets. There are a lot of chemicals in the mix. So what we wanted to find out here is what kind of effect these additional chemicals have,” said Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at the Center for the Stanford Linear Accelerator.

In addition to carbon and hydrogen, ice giants are believed to contain large amounts of oxygen.

Scientists sought to discover the effect of oxygen on the formation of nanodiamonds inside Neptune and Uranus. To do so, they repeated their previous experiment with a film of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic – a hydrocarbon that also contains oxygen – which more accurately reproduces the formation of planets.

They used a high-powered optical laser at the center of the Stanford Linear Accelerator to briefly heat the sample to 6000 degrees Celsius. This triggered a shock wave that compressed the material for a few nanoseconds to a million times the atmospheric pressure.

Using a method called X-ray diffraction, the scientists watched the atoms rearranged into small diamond regions, and also measured the size and speed of their growth.

With oxygen in the material, they found that nanodiamonds are able to grow at lower pressures and temperatures than previously observed.

“The effect of the oxygen was to speed up the splitting of carbon and hydrogen and thus encourage the formation of nanodiamonds. This means that the carbon atoms can combine more easily and form diamonds,” said Dr. Krause.

Scientists expect that the diamonds inside Neptune and Uranus will in fact become much larger than those produced in these experiments, potentially weighing millions of carats.

This assumption may be supported by the fact that, over thousands of years, inside ice giants “it literally rains diamonds”.

In addition to diamonds, the team found evidence in experiments that “superionic water” may form inside planets. This occurs when water molecules disintegrate as a result of high temperatures and pressure.

The oxygen atoms then form a regular lattice structure, where the remaining hydrogen atoms can float around and, when charged, can conduct electricity. Currents carried by this unique phase of water could explain the unusual magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune.

These findings, published in Science Advances, may affect our understanding of ice giants outside our solar system, which may experience the same phenomena.

Because the presence of oxygen makes diamond formation more likely, it is possible that it also occurs on other planets under their unique internal conditions.

Scientists plan to conduct similar experiments on samples containing ethanol, water and ammonia, all found on Uranus and Neptune, to get closer to simulating what would happen inside other planets.

Source: Daily Mail

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