Researchers Conduct a Novel Experiment That Can Turn PET Plastic Into Nanodiamonds

By | 09/09/2022

A squad of international researchers performed an experiment to recreate the atmospheric condition plant in the deep interiors of planets Uranus and Neptune. Both planets are mostly made of icy rocks and water ice-forming molecules, this is why they are also referred to as icy giants. During the experiment, the researchers discovered a technique for producing existent nanodiamonds from ordinary PET plastic bottles and proved that the internal environments of icy giants give rising to diamonds.

Image credits: Bas van den Eijkhof/Unsplash

PET or (polyethylene terephthalate) is a polymer used for producing commonly used plastic items such equally lunch boxes, water bottles, product packaging, etc. It’s not exactly what you lot’d expect to find in the deep interiors of Uranus and Neptune, which are dominated by a complex mixture of light elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen at extreme pressure and temperature weather, but information technology’s a decent chemical replacement as it contains oxygen hydrogen and carbon in suitable proportions. Plus, PET is cheap and available.

So the researchers found PET plastic bottles a great tool to mimic the composition of icy giants in the laboratory, and they got to experimenting. They conducted an experiment that was jointly carried out by teams from France-based École Polytechnique school of applied science, Germany’southward Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) laboratory, and the University of Rostock.

The technique that turns PET plastic into nanodiamonds

Uranus and Neptune are the coldest planets in our solar organization, the surface temperature on these planets could get as low as -373 °F (-225 degrees Celsius). The atmospheric pressure in the deep interiors of icy giants is also believed to be a million times more than than the force per unit area on Earth. To mimic the conditions of the deep interiors of the planets, researchers fired a powerful X-ray light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation chosen the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at a piece of PET.

Nanodiamonds are produced after the laser flashes hit the plastic bottle. Prototype credits: HZDR / Blaurock

The laser fired ten flashes every 2d and instantly heated the plastic material up to a temperature of 10,832 °F (6000 degrees Celsius). Although the planets are common cold on the outside, they’re hot on the inside, and their cores reach this temperature. When the laser hitting the plastic canteen, a shockwave was also produced, compressing the plastic at a pressure equivalent to that found on Uranus and Neptune. The process resulted in the bursting out of diamonds from the plastic film to a nearby water tank.

Scientists employed the 10-ray diffraction method (a technique that involves the use of X-rays to report crystals at diminutive and molecular levels) to determine the formation of diamonds. The diamonds measured betwixt 2 and 5 nanometers in diameter. When asked if this experiment really led to the formation of true nanodiamonds, Dominik Kraus, the professor of high free energy density physics at the University of  Rostock, told
ZME Science:

“The nanodiamonds are indeed diamonds in terms of crystal structure. The same crystal construction equally on many wedding rings, merely a one thousand thousand times smaller. So yes, these are bodily diamonds. On the short timescale of our experiments, they have non plenty time to grow farther. Even so, inside planets where we could have growth times of millions of years, the diamonds could be gigantic (km or larger).”

There is more than just diamonds to this enquiry

The researchers as well revealed that oxygen played an important role in the experiment. The gas promoted nanodiamond germination by causing rapid splitting of hydrogen and carbon atoms of the plastic film. The experiment also confirmed their previous theory which suggested that “diamonds literally rain inside the icy giants.” Moreover, the results from this study are not only applicable to the deep interiors of Uranus and Neptune but also to many other similar planets that exist in our galaxy.

Image credits: Amber Lamoreaux/Pexels

Professor Kraus suggests their experiment points toward a very efficient and scalable way to produce nanodiamonds with specific dopants in large quantities. Such nanodiamonds doped with other elements similar nitrogen can exist used as “qubits” in quantum computing and breakthrough cryptography. He also believes that the diamond precipitation occurring inside icy giants may significantly shape the energy remainder of these planets every bit the sinking diamonds release gravitational energy and heat up the planets’ interiors. Explaining farther, Professor Kraus said,

“Planets similar Uranus and Neptune, and slightly smaller, accept been found to exist the most abundant planets exterior our Solar System. Agreement those planets volition therefore also aid to get further within where life could exist outside our Solar System. A limiting factor is of course the curt timescale (nanoseconds) when compared to chemical processes on planetary timescales (millions of years). Processes happening in nanoseconds will then certainly happen in millions of years.”

The researchers mentioned in their study that the experiment may have also resulted in the formation of superionic water (a state of water that be at farthermost temperature-pressure weather). However, currently, they don’t accept any bear witness to prove the same and therefore, the next step in their research is to observe the presence of superionic water.

The study is published in the journal
Scientific discipline Advances.