He may not have an Oscar to show off, but Leonardo DiCaprio might soon have hundred of diamonds scattered around his house. I mean, he can afford them as it stands with his salary, but that’s not why I’m saying this. DiCaprio has invested in a Santa Clara-based startup called Diamond Foundry, which says they can grow real, high-quality diamonds in a lab without having to mine them and exploit native peoples. Also, can we just give the man an Oscar already? Seriously, it’s about damn time.
Sounds a bit shifty? Well, DiCaprio isn’t the only one dipping his hand in the cookie jar. Ten billionaires have also invested in the company that claims to be able to make hundreds of diamonds in just two weeks time that weigh up to nine carats each. Explaining just how this is done isn’t something we can do in detail considering their website is pretty vague, but we do know that they start with a real diamond as a ‘seed crystal’ and then use a super-heated plasma to build layers of atoms onto this seed until they have a fully formed diamond. This ‘seed crystal’ is, according to a company spokesperson, what differentiates their diamonds from other synthetic diamonds.
These gems are ‘grown’ in chemical reactors that reach staggering temperatures of 8,000 degrees Celsius, which is almost 3,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun. Business Insider had a little chat with Catherine McManus, chief scientist of Materialytics, which is a company that distinguishes natural, synthetic and fake diamonds, to see is Diamond Foundry is the real deal. She says that DF seems to be using a combination of two techniques known as high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The former entails placing a carbon seed crystal being paced inside a press with a metal solvent. It’s subsequently subjected to a great deal of pressure at temperatures around 1,400 degrees Celsius. This causes the metal to melt, which dissolves the carbon crystal and then solidifies into a diamond. CVD, on the other hand, utilizes a carbon-hydrogen gas mixture that gets deposited on a surface layer-by-layer at temperatures of around 800 degrees Celsius.
McManus says that Diamond Foundry’s method, while seemingly a combination of the two methods, leans more toward CVD, just at a much higher temperature.