In a fascinating new development, a team of scientists from Australia has unexpectedly unearthed some “strangely folded diamonds”. It might seem a bit bizarre at first because we have always thought of diamonds as strong, rigid structures without having an elastic nature. But the occurrence of these folded diamonds in meteorite samples, which are found occasionally, has alerted the scientists. Upon further inquiry, the scientists come to the conclusion that the discovery of these folded diamonds is a result of a cataclysm or catastrophe on an ancient dwarf planet. Furthermore, the research team has since conducted a study on this discovery, which has been published in the journal PNAS.
Coupled with this, the category of meteorites in which these diamonds have been found is called “ureilites” and is usually renowned for having carbon-rich and tiny diamonds. Hence, to determine the exact shape and type of these diamonds, researchers disintegrated carbon from the obtained samples in CSIRO and formulated both diamond and graphite. In the process, they got to know that this diamond comes from a very rare breed known as “lonsdaleite” having a hexagonal shape.
However, for detailed inspection, the team at CSIRO send these diamonds to RMIT where the team further conducted a thorough inspection check through “high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM).” The microscopy proved beneficial as it revealed some insightful details of these diamonds and one such revelation is that they are around 1 micrometer long and are made of a lot of tiny crystals of lonsdaleite. The details were super cool, but still, the researchers were not able to come to the main point regarding the folding structure of the diamonds.
Hence, to unveil this mystery, the team at RMIT compared different crystals of diamond, graphite, and lonsdaleite to the samples of ureilites. There were around 18 such samples that were different in nature and it was revealed by the team that some crystals of lonsdaleite have been transformed into graphite and diamond. Furthermore, they also came across some soft graphite crystals in those samples which have not been transformed into the diamond yet. This is the turning point of the research.
They deduced from these findings that the diamonds which they now see as unfolded have been grown on the dwarf planet some 4.5 billion years ago and with the passage of time, due to the presence of temperature and pressure, the shape of these diamonds become folded. Along with this, due to this hexagonal structure, these diamonds tend to be 50% more rigid than usual cubic diamonds. According to Professor Andy Tomkins, who is also the lead author of the study:
“Nature has thus provided us with a process to try and replicate in industry. We think that lonsdaleite could be used to make tiny, ultra-hard machine parts if we can develop an industrial process that promotes the replacement of pre-shaped graphite parts by lonsdaleite.”