Scientists discover new green power solution in a tiny diamond sphere
As 2022 came to an end, a breakthrough was made in the nuclear power industry.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California had set up a reaction they had been fine tuning for some time.
The team aimed a powerful beam laser at a cylinder which contained a tiny diamond sphere, as they had done many times before.
This time, the reaction produced more energy than the laser power that was used to create the reaction. This is big news, and certainly justifies continued development of this kind of technology.
The sphere itself was only a mere ‘peppercorn size’, and had to be perfectly smooth in order for the reaction to work.
Why are we interested at Olmec Advanced Materials?
Aside from the obvious benefits of the discovery (clean energy production), there is something that links this discovery to the world of carbon and graphite: Materials.
This tiny sphere was created using synthetic diamond.
Diamond, carbon and graphite are all forms of carbon, with different giant covalent structures.
In other words, both diamond and graphite are forms of carbon.
In the case of the diamond used here, production is even more painstaking than the arduous process of producing isostatic graphite.
To make a small batch of 30-40 capsules, the team at NIF must layer tiny diamond crystals over a silicone carbide core. After layering each crystal, the surface must be polished thoroughly.
A batch of this size takes around two months to produce, and after trials the team found that even still the polishing was not enough to ensure a smooth surface on a microscopic level.
To solve the issue of surface finish, the scientists teamed up with LLNL to glaze the polished capsule with a fresh layer of diamond crystals, and this seems to have done the trick.
Mike Farrell stated: “The experiment changed scientific opinion. Ignition was always thought of as almost unattainable, [or something that might only happen] 40 years in the future. The result in December was eye-opening.”
The success of this experiment is only the beginning, and there is a long road ahead if the technology is to become a practical clean energy solution.