Diamond rain, a phenomenon that sounds absurd but is completely real

The sight of diamonds falling from the sky does not happen on our planet, but scientists think it is a completely real phenomenon. They actually occur on the surface of gas giants such as Uranus and Neptune. Recently, they recreated the key conditions for the formation of the “Diamond Rain” phenomenon in the laboratory and obtained the atomic structure of diamond.

According to The Guardian, this phenomenon occurs on the two planets mentioned above because they contain a lot of gas such as hydrogen and helium, and these planets also have huge oceans of water, ammonia and hydrocarbons.

The researchers found that the high temperatures and pressures deep inside these planets act on hydrocarbons in the oceans to produce diamonds that fall inside the planet.

Scientists have been trying to replicate the conditions inside these planets to produce diamonds in the lab. They can also probe the structure of the material as it is made to help with their research.

“You’re actually going to see the atomic structure of diamond,” said Dirk Gericke, co-author of the study from the University of Warwick. He added that previous experiments had not been successful in recreating conditions using lasers and other techniques because scientists had underestimated the pressures and other conditions that could be seen. evident on these blue planets.

Diamond rain, the phenomenon sounds absurd, but it is completely real - Photo 1.

Neptune and Uranus are known as the “ice giants” in our Solar System because their outer two layers are composed of compounds including hydrogen and helium. In astronomical slang, “ice” refers to all compounds of light elements that contain hydrogen, so the planet’s water (H2O), ammonia (NH3), and methane (CH4) make them become “frozen”. The beautiful blue color of both planets is the result of traces of methane in their atmospheres.

Gericke and his team revealed in the journal Nature Astronomy that they fired a laser at standard polystyrene – a substitute for the hydrocarbons found inside Uranus and Neptune – to create diamonds.

“A laser is used to rapidly heat the surface of polystyrene, causing it to expand and create a shock wave. The team generated two shock waves, with the second wave being faster than the first. When the shocks caught up with each other, temperatures and pressures of 5,000 K and 150 GPa were produced, respectively – conditions similar to those found about 10,000 km into the planet’s interior,” wrote The Guardian.

These extreme conditions caused the bonds between the carbon and hydrogen in the polystyrene to break, and the carbon to bond with each other to form diamonds. The team also witnessed the formation of diamonds, using short pulses of X-rays.

Dominik Kraus, first author of the study from the German research laboratory Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, said: “The test period was very short. And finding clear traces of diamonds was really very difficult. surprising”.

Although the team created diamonds in the lab, they are in fact extremely small, a few nanometers in diameter. However, the researchers claim that the diamonds created on Uranus and Neptune will be much larger in size and that in the future they will soon be able to produce them in that size.

Gericke also points out that his research goes beyond what can be observed on the two planets and is evolving at a rapid rate. He suggested that his research could be perfected to produce diamonds for use in industrial cutting equipment or other commercial projects.

Diamond rain, the phenomenon sounds absurd, but it is completely real - Photo 2.

The idea of ​​diamond rain was first suggested before the Voyager 2 mission in 1977. The reason is pretty simple: We know what Uranus and Neptune are made of, and we do. that things will get hotter and denser as we go deeper into the planet. And then, mathematical models helped us calculate the probability of this happening, for example, the innermost regions of the mantles of these planets could have a temperature of about 7,000 kelvins ( 6,727 degrees Celsius) and the pressure is 6 million times that of Earth’s atmosphere.

The same models also tell us that the outermost layers of the mantle have a temperature of about -2,000 K (minus 1,727 degrees Celsius) and a pressure 200,000 times Earth’s atmospheric pressure. Thus ammonia and methane will decay at the atomic level and release carbon. Then the carbon will link together to form long chains. The long chains are then pressed together to form diamond-like crystal patterns.

The dense diamond crystals then fall through the layers of the mantle until it overheats, vaporizes and floats backwards and cycles again – hence the term “diamond rain”.

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