Is It Raining Diamonds On Uranus?
If experiments at the University of California, Berkeley, are any indication, future explorers of our solar system may well find diamonds hailing down through the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus.
These planets contain a high proportion of methane, which UC Berkeley researchers have now shown can turn into diamond at the high temperatures and pressures found inside these planets.
An interesting finding, but not apt to be an important source of high quality diamonds for De Beers any time soon.
"Once these diamonds form, they fall like raindrops or hailstones toward the center of the planet," said Laura Robin Benedetti, a graduate student in physics at UC Berkeley.
The team, led by Benedetti and Raymond Jeanloz, professor of geology and geophysics, produced these conditions inside a diamond anvil cell, squeezing liquid methane to several hundred thousand times atmospheric pressure. When they focused a laser beam on the pressurized liquid, heating it to some 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, diamond dust appeared.
They report their experimental findings in a paper in the Oct. 1 issue of Science.