lonsdaleite: the hair-thin diamond from outer space finally has an explanation of its origin


Out there in space there are a huge number of mysteries to solve and discoveries to be found. But at least one puzzle seems finally to be solved: the origin of lonsdaleite, a space diamond the size of a strand of hair.

Under a traditional perspective, there had always been the idea that diamonds were exclusive jewels of planet Earth.

But the reality is that its chemical composition makes its existence possible in practically any point where the conditions make it possible.

This is how we came to the creation of the object of this note, a diamond whose tangible existence was a fact to find samples of it.

But the explanation behind its origin and its exact compositional structure remained something of a tangled mystery. Until now.

Space diamonds explained: this is what Ionsdaleite really looks like

The most recent edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) features the results of major research, conducted by a team led by scientists from Melbourne University of Technology (RMIT).

In the paper, it is stated that lonsdaleite is a rare hexagonal shape of diamond and that it would have formed after an ancient dwarf planet in the solar system collided with a large asteroid.

All this would have happened more than 4,500 million years ago and the estimates were possible thanks to a series of samples of ureilite meteorites from the mantle of the dwarf planet, where they confirmed the existence of lonsdateite.

This mineral receives this peculiar name in honor of the British crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale and they constitute the point where we resize our conceptions about the qualities of diamonds.

Since the hexagonal structure of lonsdaleite atoms makes it harder than normal diamonds, which have a cubic structure.

Diamonds / Referential image

This study is highly relevant, since it categorically demonstrates that lonsdaleite exists in nature.

The largest lonsdaleite crystals known to date are down to a micron in size, much finer than a strand of human hair, and their structure is basically unseen before.

So these crystals could be the basis and key to the creation of new manufacturing techniques for ultra-hard materials with tiny shapes, super thin, but virtually indestructible.

The team behind this research used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture the solid slices of the meteorites and that made it possible to decipher their structure.

But this is just the beginning.

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