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Artificial Diamonds from Tequila: Is there anything drink can't do?

artificial-diamonds-tequila.jpgDiamonds have been forced to get proper jobs. Throughout history these precious stones have been the sign of wealth and status, lying in the lap of luxury (which they defined by their presence). Recent advances in nanotechnology are changing this clear crystal from "pointless and pretty" to "tough and dependable." Think of a princess who gets hilariously separated from her wealth in a Disney movie.

Scientists worldwide are working on artificial diamond manufacture. One laboratory is the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where three men working on the problem came to the same conclusion any group of men will eventually come to: "I bet we could do this with drink." But unlike most men, they were right.

The key is that diamonds aren't made of anything special - the carbon in the Cartier stones could just as easily have been lead in a child's pencil. The important factor is how the atoms bond to each other. The Mexican team use a Pulsed Liquid Injection Chemical Vapor Deposition (PLICVD) system, which does exactly what it says in the name. Small squirts of a carbon-bearing liquid is pulsed into a special chamber, where it is evaporated into vapour which deposits its carbon as a diamond film onto a heated metal plate.

All you need to do is choose the liquid. Obviously you need carbon, but the other elements in the chemical cocktail are important. You can't use liquid carbon because holding your apparatus at four thousand degrees Kelvin to vaporise it would cause some problems, and having too much carbon in the mix promotes boring graphite over interesting diamond anyway. Oxygen and hydrogen can help the crystal formation, so mixing the right blend is very important.

Lucky, then, that tequila distillers have already done it. They carefully prepare the C2H6O of Ethanol, which you might notice has all three of the ingredients we want (with C in the minority), then dilute it further with distilled water (some more pure H2O goodness). One of the researchers, Luis Miguel Apátiga (soon to be known as Hero of Alcohology), bought a bottle of tequila to test if this would work, or if the extra agave-based additives would scupper the process.

The answer: no it doesn't, and the team are now researching how other brands of tequila affect the procedure (and presumably high-fiving each other over finding a way to put "Crate of tequila" on a research expense form). This research is a cool example of combining advanced research with fun "Let's see if this works"-ness, and is far better than the pre-existing route to move from tequila to diamonds (specifically: an irresponsible lack of precautions and a strong moral sense).

By Luke McKinney

Tequila Diamonds


Here in México the jokes would have been "Well, One for the glass one for the eperiment", and of course if the scientists were from the University of Guadalajara. And this could terminate the "Hecho en Tequila Jalisco" fight for scientific purposes.

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