Science

Diamond rivers in the universe

According to a study released Friday, some planets may form rivers of diamonds that use vulgar plastic to recreate the conditions of their supposed appearance in the bowels of Uranus and Neptune.

The scientists hypothesized that the colossal pressure turns hydrogen and carbon into diamonds that flow thousands of miles below the gaseous surface of these ice giants.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that adding oxygen to the mixture may promote this formation. The rivers will be of a special type, explained Dominik Kraus, a physicist at the German research laboratory HZDR and co-author of the study.

The diamonds must form from a “hot and dense liquid” and then flow gently towards the rocky heart of the planets, 10,000 km below the surface, he explained to AFP. Then they will dissipate there in layers “hundreds of kilometers or more.”

A group of scientists from the HZDR, the German University of Rostock, as well as the Polytechnic School tried to recreate these conditions.

She used simple plastic as a material, mixing the necessary ingredients: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Same as used in soft drink bottles. She then exposed it to a powerful laser from the SLAC laboratory in Stanford, USA.

“Very, very short X-ray flashes of incredible intensity” observed the formation of nanodiamonds too small to be seen with the naked eye, Kraus described.

According to him, the presence of oxygen “present in large quantities on these planets” will contribute to the formation of diamonds. The researchers suggest that the diamonds there could be much larger than those produced by an experiment on Earth, perhaps millions of carats, added in a statement released with the study.

This discovery paves the way for a new way to produce nanodiamonds, which are increasingly being used in many fields such as medical probes, non-invasive surgery or quantum electronics.

An industrial method for the production of nanodiamonds is that carbon-rich materials are subjected to very strong explosions. “Laser manufacturing may offer a cleaner and more easily controlled method for producing nanodiamonds,” said Benjamin Ofori-Okai, SLAC scientist and co-author of the study.

As for what is actually going on in the heart of Neptune and Uranus, the solar system’s most distant planets, we’ll have to wait for future space missions to find out more. To date, only one NASA probe, Voyager 2, has crossed two icy planets.

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