The first thing we all think about with diamonds is the jewellery market. Love them or hate them they will continue to be a popular option for rings and other jewellery due to their unique refractive and dispersive qualities, which means they will always shine that little bit brighter than other precious gems.
But these stones are far more interesting than just being a pretty rock. Diamonds are well known to be the hardest materials in existence and this unique quality has made them popular in industrial markets. Traditionally industrial diamonds were just the waste product of the jewellery industry but with modern science, most of these are no lab grown and have the same chemical structures and physical properties as natural diamonds and both are made of the same material. The difference with lab-grown diamonds is that they can be optimised and tailored for a diversity of applications.
Companies such as Element Six pave the way in developing supermaterials, which synthetic diamond is part of. They not only produce these diamond-based supermaterials but heavily invest in research for new supermaterials such as tungsten carbide and cubic boron nitride.
The unique properties of diamonds mean they are used in dozens of industries from automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and even in the consumer goods we use on a daily basis.
The application of diamonds in the automotive and aerospace industry is a similar concept; this ultra hard material can cut and drill far better than traditional materials. Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) is the material that is commonly used in these industries and this is microscopic diamond powders which are bonded through high pressure and temperature.
For cars, a standard ceramic tool cutting edge can machine several hundred brake discs whereas Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) can machine over 10,000.
With modern aircraft, the use of lightweight ultra-strong Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) composites means that traditional drills can’t do the job adequately. Therefore, drill bits need to be laced with PCD in order to efficiently cut through this material.
The healthcare system has become increasingly reliant on fibre optics and lasers for the use in non-invasive procedures. The properties of diamonds can be used to produce superior lasers that can be adjusted to alter their colour or provide continuously-operating beams rather than a pulse found in most standard lasers. An example of this application would be an abnormal cluster of blood vessels which requires a yellow/orange light that is difficult to produce with conventional lasers but which is needed to maximise absorption by the lesion while minimising damage to surrounding tissue.
Within the consumer sector, the cutting and drilling benefits of diamonds mean that they can be used to machine highly intricate devices and create a precision finish. Diamonds are also popular in the high-end speaker market; a diamond can be grown using chemicals and gases into a specific shape which is then used on the tweeter of a speaker to produce supreme sound quality, all without a hint of distortion.
Diamonds are also well known to have the highest thermal conductivity of any other material, achieving a conductivity over two times greater than copper. This has therefore seen them used in as heat spreaders for devices and electronics that require the absolute best disbursement of heat as possible, ensuring improved performance and reliability.