It's no mystery that diamonds are, in fact, one of the world's most completely-not-rare "rare" gems, but it seriously feels like they're becoming more and more common every day. Case in point: scientists have discovered that for the price of a candle, you too can be the proud owner of millions upon millions of ephemeral diamond nanoparticles.
For some time, scientists have known that hydrocarbon molecules exist at the base of a candle flame, and that these hydrocarbons are converted into carbon dioxide by the time they reach the top of the flame. But nobody knew the details on what happened in between.
But that didn't stop Dr. Wuzong Zhou from trying to find out. In response to a challenge from a fellow colleague, Zhou — a professor of chemistry at St. Andrew's University — set out to characterize the mysterious chemistry of the candle flame.
"I told him I believed science could explain everything eventually, so I decided to find out," said Zhou.
And he did just that. Zhou actually developed a brand new sampling technique that allowed him to remove particles from the center of a candle flame. In doing so, he found that it could produce a prodigious number of diamond nanoparticles. How prodigious are we talking? About 1.5 million per second.
"Unfortunately," notes Zhou, "the diamond particles are burned away in the process, and converted into carbon dioxide." There is also currently no way of extracting the particles (or if there is, Zhou certainly isn't telling us).
Nevertheless, Zhou is hopeful that his discovery, which is published in the journal Chemical Communications, could lead to future research into how diamonds could be created more cheaply, and in more environmentally friendly ways.
Top image via