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Sparking buckyball diamonds.

With surprising ease, French and Argentine chemists have crushed the 60-carbon molecules called buckyballs, converting them to diamonds.

Last year, other scientists discovered that a 76-carbon fullerene cousin to buckyballs helped stimulate the deposition of diamond film (SN: 11/16/91, p.310). Now, Manuel Nunez Regueiro of the Atomic Center in Bariloche, Argentina, and two colleagues have discovered that by subjecting fullerence material to a steep gradient of pressure, they can cause the carbon atoms to rearrange into diamonds.

Working at the Very Low Temperature Research Center in Grenoble, France, the researchers filled a 1-millimeter-wide gasket with either a black fullerene or buckyball powder, then squeezed the sample between two diamonds in a device called a diamond anvil. By slanting the anvil slightly, they created a steep gradient across the sample as they increased the pressure 1 gigapascal -- 10,000 times atmospheric pressure -- per minute. At room temperature and about 20 gigapascals -- 200,000 atmospheres -- the sample solidified into a transparent disk with an amber or reddish brown color, they reported in the Jan. 16 NATURE. The scientists analyzed these samples using electron diffraction and found that the material consisted of many tiny diamonds.

Graphite also converts to diamond, but that conversion requires higher pressures or temperatures above 1,200 kelvins. It seems that the three-dimensional fullerene transforms more easily than flat graphite, the scientists suggest. Because the buckyball material converted so quickly and completely to a polycrystalline diamond at room temperature, this process may prove useful for making industrial diamonds, they add.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 15, 1992
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