Paris | According to a study published on Friday, some planets could form rivers of diamonds, which used bad plastic to recreate the conditions of their formation deep inside Uranus and Neptune.
Scientists theorized that gas flows thousands of miles below the surface of these ice giants, turning hydrogen and carbon into diamonds.
The study, published in Science Advances, suggests that adding oxygen to the mix could facilitate this formation. Dominik Krause, a physicist at the German research laboratory HZDR and co-author of the study, explained that the rivers are of a certain type.
Diamonds form from a “hot, dense liquid” 10,000 km below the surface before slowly flowing into the planets’ rocky heart, he explained to AFP. Then they spread in layers “hundreds of kilometers or more”.
A team of scientists from the HZDR, the German University of Rostock and the Ecole Polytechnique tried to recreate these conditions.
He used a simple plastic as a material to mix the necessary ingredients: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. As used in soft drink bottles. He then subjected it to the fire of a powerful laser from the SLAC laboratory in Stanford, USA.
“Very, very brief flashes of X-rays of incredible intensity” observed the formation of nano-diamonds, too small to be seen with the naked eye, Mr. Cross explained.
The oxygen supply, “which is abundant on these planets,” would make it easier for diamonds to form, he explained. Researchers speculate that the diamonds there may be much larger than those produced by Earth’s probe, perhaps millions of carats, adds a report published by the study.
The discovery paves the way for a new way to produce nano-diamonds that are increasingly useful in many applications such as medical research, non-invasive surgery or quantum electronics.
The industrial method for producing nano-diamonds involves subjecting carbon-rich materials to very strong explosions. “Laser manufacturing can provide a clean and easily controllable method of producing nano-diamonds,” said Benjamin Ofori-Okai, a SLAC scientist and co-author of the study.
As for what’s really going on in the heart of the solar system’s most distant planets, Neptune and Uranus, we’ll have to wait for future space missions to learn more. To date, only one NASA probe, Voyager 2, has passed two icy planets.