Published: Tue, August 22, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Recreated Lab Simulation Confirmed Diamond Rain on Neptune & Uranus

Recreated Lab Simulation Confirmed Diamond Rain on Neptune & Uranus

While the glittering precipitation has always been hypothesised, this is the first time that scientists have observed it in practice.

As now scientists are now capable of reproducing an environment akin to the planet's atmosphere, located some 10,000 km in the core of Neptune and Uranus, further experiments and researchers are more likely to reveal if there are some more stable options ahead of diamond precipitation.

The researchers from HZDR and SLAC were joined by scientists from the University of California in Berkeley, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, the University of Osaka, TU Darmstadt, the European XFEL, the University of MI, and the University of Warwick. Researchers by recreating the lab simulations of the theorized fall of diamonds of ice giants like Uranus and Neptune have confirmed that the long-standing theory is entirely true.

The experiment caused nearly all the carbon atoms in the plastic to combine into diamond-like structures a few nanometers wide.

A team led by Dominik Kraus from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf research centre in Germany subjected plastic to shockwaves by exposing it to the intense energy produced by SLAC's X-ray free-electron laser, known as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).

The interior of planets like Neptune or Uranus consists of a solid core swathed in thick layers of "ice", which is mostly made up of hydrocarbons, water and ammonia.

These are not poor-quality gems - according to the scientists, the diamonds could reach millions of carats in weight.

During the experiment the polystyrene was x-rayed using one of the brightest machine in the world to see the diamonds., which is housed at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. Plastic and methane give the planet a blue cast that is composed of hydrogen and carbon molecules. Scientists have been working on material powerful laser, creating two types of shock waves: pretty weak and much stronger and faster. And since this process takes only a fraction of a second, the researchers used ultrafast X-ray diffraction to take snapshots of the diamonds' creation and the chemical processes involved. Most of the planets' nature is still unknown, but scientists are now one step closer to realize how their structures work.

"We can't go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations", Kraus said.

The team now hopes to apply the same methods to look at other processes that occur in the interiors of planets.

The experts say that the nanodiamonds made on Earth could potentially be harvested to make the tips of precision medical instruments, or used in electronics.

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