Drivers could one day have synthetic diamonds embedded in their cars to help them navigate, instead of GPS
Lab-grown red diamonds with an atomic defect could one day replace GPS systems thanks to their remarkable sensitivity to magnetic waves, scientists have suggested.
A team at Element Six, a tech company based in Oxfordshire, are exploring the remarkable properties of crystals with a so-called ‘nitrogen vacancy defect’. This is a gap in the atomic lattice at the heart of the diamond.
The development of magnetically sensitive diamonds could help make driverless cars a reality.
However such a development could be decades away, the scientists warn. Their work is focused on improving the magnetic sensitivity of synthetic diamonds, which could also be used to replace MRI sensors. This could result in a helmet or handheld scanner that would probe a patient’s body without putting them inside an MRI tube.
Element Six primarily focuses on developing diamond-edged cutting tools for use in heavy industry, such as drill bits for oil and gas companies. It is majority owned by diamond mining giant De Beers.
The company is also looking at how to use synthetic diamonds in quantum computing. A highly theoretical field that promises computational power far in excess of today’s digital machines.
The Element Six Group is an independently managed synthetic diamond supermaterials group and part of the De Beers Group. Element Six is made up of two businesses:
- Technologies, which is 100% owned by the De Beers Group
- Abrasives, which is 60% owned by the De Beers Group, with Umicore, a major global materials group, owning the remaining 40%.
Element Six is helping customers harness the power of supermaterials
Supermaterials can open the door to progress in a staggering range of applications. Element 6 has a successful track record of working with companies in many different sectors to provide built-for-purpose extreme performance supermaterial solutions. Their collaborative and flexible approach has seen both start-ups and multinationals successfully partnering with Element Six to harness the power of supermaterials.
Element Six has synthesized synthetic diamond for over 50 years. Along with partners they are at the forefront of supermaterials development. They recognize and understand the unique and extreme spectrum of properties of synthetic diamond, such as its unequalled hardness, which can be harnessed to deliver unrivaled solutions.
Some of the applications that they have been involved with include
- synthetic diamond tweeters in high-end loudspeakers
- synthetic diamond sensors in radiation therapy
- synthetic diamond cutters for oil & gas drilling
- synthetic diamond semi-conductors in the Large Hadron Collider
Synthetic diamond has unique properties
The unique properties of synthetic diamonds stem from its rigid lattice structure. Carbon atoms linked together in a dense tetrahedral arrangement make it incredibly strong. This gives it greater hardness than all other materials.
The exceptional hardness of synthetic diamond has inherent advantages in mechanical and abrasive applications. Extending tool life reduces downtime and drives down operating costs and carbon footprints. Machinery keeps working at peak performance, delivering unwavering build accuracy and precision throughout its life cycle.
However, synthetic diamond has many other extreme properties, including
- the broadest optical transmission spectrum
- the highest known thermal conductivity
- a wide electronic band gap
- the highest known resistance to thermal shock and many others
Not surprisingly, the use of specialist technology is required for the manufacture and processing of synthetic diamond. For example, when one creates synthetic diamond using high pressure, high temperature synthesis, over 55 thousand atmospheres of pressure are delivered. This is equivalent to stacking approximately 5000 saloon cars on a jar of peanut butter, at temperatures that would melt steel.
From improving carbon footprints to generating increased manufacturing efficiencies, and from new electronic solutions to healthcare advances, Element Six and their partners are helping to bring the power of supermaterials to the world.