(ORDO NEWS) — A new study has found that diamond rain, an exotic type of precipitation on icy giant planets, may be more common than previously thought.
In a previous experiment, the researchers simulated the extreme temperatures and pressures found deep inside ice giants like Neptune and Uranus and observed the formation of diamond rain for the first time.
By investigating this process in new material that better matches the chemistry of these planets, scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and colleagues found that the presence of oxygen makes diamonds more likely to form, allowing them to form and grow under a wider range of conditions.
The new study provides a more complete picture of how diamond rain is formed and could lead to a new way to make nanodiamonds on Earth.
An international team of researchers has published the results of a new experiment in the journal Science Advances.
In a previous experiment, the scientists studied a plastic material made from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon, key components of the overall chemical composition of Neptune and Uranus. But ice giants also contain other elements, including large amounts of oxygen.
In the new study, experts studied PET plastic to more accurately reproduce the composition of these planets.
The scientists used a powerful optical laser to create shock waves in PET. Then they studied what happened to the plastic. Using X-ray diffraction, the researchers observed how the atoms rearrange themselves into small diamond regions.
The scientists used small-angle scattering to measure how fast and how large these regions were growing. It turned out that they grew to a few nanometers in width.
The researchers concluded that nanodiamonds are able to grow at lower pressures and temperatures if the material contains oxygen.
Experts believe that the diamonds on Neptune and Uranus will be much larger than the nanodiamonds obtained in these experiments. They are expected to weigh millions of carats.
The team also found evidence that superionic water, which has a high electrical conductivity, can also form when combined with diamonds. Perhaps it will be the key to understanding the origin of unusual magnetic fields on Uranus and Neptune.
The study points to a potential route to obtain nanodiamonds from cheap PET plastics. While these tiny gems are already found in abrasives and polishes, they have the potential to be used in quantum sensors, medical contrast agents, and reaction accelerators for renewable energy in the future.
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