Rice University researchers see nanodiamonds created in coal fade away in seconds
Images taken by Rice University scientists show that some diamonds are not forever.
The Rice researchers behind a new study that explains the creation of nanodiamonds in treated coal also show that some microscopic diamonds only last seconds before fading back into less-structured forms of carbon under the impact of an electron beam. The research by Rice chemist Ed Billups and his colleagues appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
Billups and Yanqiu Sun, a former postdoctoral researcher in his lab, witnessed the interesting effect while working on ways to chemically reduce carbon from anthracite coal and make it soluble. First they noticed nanodiamonds forming amid the amorphous, hydrogen-infused layers of graphite.
It happened, they discovered, when they took close-ups of the coal with an electron microscope, which fires an electron beam at the point of interest. Unexpectedly, the energy input congealed clusters of hydrogenated carbon atoms, some of which took on the lattice-like structure of nanodiamonds.
“The beam is very powerful,” Billups said. “To knock hydrogen atoms off of something takes a tremendous amount of energy.”
Even without the kind of pressure needed to make macroscale diamonds, the energy knocked loose hydrogen atoms to prompt a chain reaction between layers of graphite in the coal that resulted in diamonds between 2 and 10 nanometers wide.
But the most “nano” of the nanodiamonds were seen to fade away under the power of the electron beam in a succession of images taken over 30 seconds.
“The small diamonds are not stable and they revert to the starting material, the anthracite,” Billups said.
Billups turned to Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues at the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Moscow to explain what the chemists saw. Yakobson, Pavel Sorokin and Alexander Kvashnin had already come up with a chart — called a phase diagram — that demonstrated how thin diamond films might be made without massive pressure.
They used similar calculations to show how nanodiamonds could form in treated anthracite and subbituminous coal. In this case, the electron microscope’s beam knocks hydrogen atoms loose from carbon layers. Then the dangling bonds compensate by connecting to an adjacent carbon layer, which is prompted to connect to the next layer. The reaction zips the atoms into a matrix characteristic of diamond until pressure forces the process to halt.
Natural, macroscale diamonds require extreme pressures and temperatures to form, but the phase diagram should be reconsidered for nanodiamonds, the researchers said.
“There is a window of stability for diamonds within the range of 19-52 angstroms (tenths of a nanometer), beyond which graphite is more stable,” Billups said. Stable nanodiamonds up to 20 nanometers in size can be formed in hydrogenated anthracite, they found, though the smallest nanodiamonds were unstable under continued electron-beam radiation.
Billups noted subsequent electron-beam experiments with pristine anthracite formed no diamonds, while tests with less-robust infusions of hydrogen led to regions with “onion-like fringes” of graphitic carbon, but no fully formed diamonds. Both experiments lent support to the need for sufficient hydrogen to form nanodiamonds.
Kvashnin is a former visiting student at Rice and a graduate student at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). Sorokin holds appointments at MIPT and the National University of Science and Technology, Moscow. Yakobson is Rice’s Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, a professor of chemistry and a member of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Billups is a professor of chemistry at Rice.
The Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research supported the research.
David Ruth | Eurek Alert!
Unidentified spectra detector
28.06.2016 | European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute
Freiburg Biologists Explain Function of Pentagone
28.06.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
R2D2, a joint project to analyze and development high-TRL processes and technologies for manufacture of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been successfully completed.
In contrast to point light sources like LEDs made of inorganic semiconductor crystals, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are light-emitting surfaces. Their...
High resolution rotational spectroscopy reveals an unprecedented number of conformations of an odorant molecule – a new world record!
In a recent publication in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter...
Strands of cow cartilage substitute for ink in a 3D bioprinting process that may one day create cartilage patches for worn out joints, according to a team of engineers. "Our goal is to create tissue that can be used to replace large amounts of worn out tissue or design patches," said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Those who have osteoarthritis in their joints suffer a lot. We need a new alternative treatment for this."
Cartilage is a good tissue to target for scale-up bioprinting because it is made up of only one cell type and has no blood vessels within the tissue. It is...
Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.
Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...
A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...
28.06.2016 | Event News
09.06.2016 | Event News
24.05.2016 | Event News
28.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2016 | Life Sciences
28.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy