Diamonds are everywhere. They adorn millions of people’s fingers, necks, and ears around the world. They’re useful for many other things, though, not just beauty and style. Companies utilize diamond in various industrial applications every day. The diamonds used in practical applications are not the same as the ones that get cut and polished for jewelry. Industrial diamond is a lower grade and quality, but that doesn’t make it less valuable. It’s used in speakers, beauty products, and as a super abrasive to grind and cut dense metals and materials with precision. Because of the diamond’s value, science found a way to create it synthetically in a lab. The process was developed in the 1950s and continues to evolve today. How is industrial diamond made? It depends on the process.
Nature makes diamond deep underground, and it takes billions of years. Carbon atoms are pressed deep in the earth’s mantle, and they slowly become diamond. The process of diamond formation needs extreme temperatures and intense pressure that only exists hundreds of miles underground. A violent underground volcanic eruption typically brings the diamond closer to the surface, which makes it visible and available for man to mine. Natural diamond takes a lot of work to find. It also takes many machines, men, and hundreds of hours to extract diamonds from the earth. All that work doesn’t yield much, but what is found has great value. Naturally occurring diamond is rare, small, hard to find, and very expensive.
The process to make artificial diamond can take as little as two weeks to complete. Two different processes to make synthetic diamond exist, with one subcategory. High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) is the original process. To create the first synthetics, scientists created a process that simulates the earth’s crushing heat and pressure. There are three different processes involved with HPHT diamond making; the belt press, cubic press, and split-sphere press. General Electric was the first company to create synthetic diamond using a belt press in 1954. Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) produces the same result in a different way. This process uses low pressure and smaller machines, which makes it easier to control. A vacuum chamber is filled with carbon, extreme heat is applied, and carbon pieces begin to form. The process to create synthetic diamond also led to the creation of Cubic Boron Nitride (c-BN). It’s a synthetic compound that has all the properties of diamond, but it’s more chemically stable. Some researchers believe that it’s stronger too.