Scientists simulate the interior of Neptune and Uranus using plastic bottles: they end up making nanodiamonds


From small things, from everyday things, many great and unimaginable things can arise. A group of European scientists tried to simulate the interior of Neptune Y Uranus in their laboratory using plastic bottles and lasers: they ended up making nanodiamonds.

The research, reviewed by Eurekalert, It was published in the specialized journal Science Advances. Its titled Kinetics of diamond formation in shock-compressed CHO samples recorded by small-angle X-ray scattering and X-ray diffraction.

On planets like Neptune and Uranus it rains diamonds of up to 200 kilos, and the hypothesis points to intense heat and pressure thousands of kilometers below the surface of the ice giants. Because of this, the carbon is compressed into diamond, sinking towards the planetary cores.

Several laboratories have carried out experiments using X-rays as Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), with a pressure of approximately 1.5 million atmospheres and a temperature of 4,730 °C, as explained Very Interesting.

The experiment with plastic bottles for the creation of nanodiamonds

The most recent experience was carried out by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf and the University of Rostock in Germany, together with the École Polytechnique in France. They fired a laser at a plain PET plastic thin film, come on, a plastic bottle, using intensive laser flares.

With this they not only recreated the atmosphere of Neptune and Uranus on a small scale, but also established a basis for the production of nanodiamonds.

“Until now, we used hydrocarbon films for this type of experiment. And we discovered that this extreme pressure produced tiny diamonds, known as nanodiamonds.” Dominik Kraus, HZDR physicist and professor at the University of Rostock.

Scheme shown by German and French scientists

But the movies only partially simulated the interiors of planets, since ice giants contain not only carbon and hydrogen, but also large amounts of oxygen.

Hence, looking for the right film material, they tried the PET, the resin from which ordinary plastic bottles are made. Kraus points out that this material has “a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, to simulate activity on ice planets.”

The experiments were performed at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, with the Linac Coherent Light Source.

Oxygen, key to the formation of nanodiamonds

For Kraus, the effect of oxygen “was to accelerate the division of carbon and hydrogen, promoting the formation of nanodiamonds. Meant that carbon atoms could more easily combine, forming diamonds.”

This supports, in the words of the statement published in Eurekalert, the assumption that it literally rains diamonds inside the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune.

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