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We tend to associate diamonds with wedding rings, but this only goes back to the 1930s, thanks to a clever marketing campaign by diamond company De Beers. Their super-strong structure, thanks to four covalent carbon bonds, make them useful in biology, electronics, optics, industry, research, and other industries. Diamonds' strength makes them ideal for use in any sort of industrial grinding or drilling: diamonds embedded in a saw-wheel can cut through pretty much anything other material. Because they don't have any free electrons, they are not electrically conductive, but they are the most thermally conductive material of any known solid. They experience thermionic emission when heated to around 750 degrees F (400 C), and researchers at the University of Melbourne are attempting to use diamond in solar panels to increase their efficiency.
Diamonds may have applications in medicine, too. They're biocompatible, which means they're nontoxic to humans, so researchers trying to use nanodiamonds them to deliver drugs. At about five-nanometers long (a DNA strand is 2.5 nanometers in diameter), they are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver chemotherapy directly to brain tumors. Researchers are also experimenting with fluorescent nanodiamonds to help with medical imaging and microscopy. We've discussed graphene in an earlier episode of DNews, which is chemically similar to diamonds since they're both different arrangements of carbon atoms. Graphene could completely change how we construct future machines, and maybe even charge your cell phone in five seconds.
How These Microscopic Diamonds Are Going to Shape the Future (Gizmodo)
"No doubt you're already familiar with the many ways graphene promises to save us all, but there's another (so-called) miracle material out there vying for your attention-and it's sparkly, to boot. Say hello to the latest and greatest substance to kick science's ass straight into the future: the nanodiamond."
Molecular-sized fluorescent nanodiamonds (Nature)
"Here, we show that isolated diamond nanoparticles as small as 1.6 nm, comprising only ~400 carbon atoms, are capable of housing stable photoluminescent colour centres."