Research shows diamonds aren’t forever

New research has shown that diamonds aren’t forever. Sorry ladies, the commercials are lying to you.

A paper published last week in the journal Optical Materials Express by Macquarie University researchers shows that earth’s hardest natural substance does not last forever.


Associate Professor Richard Mildren and his team from the Macquarie University Photonics Research Centre learned that diamonds evaporate from exposure to light.


“Although this type of light-induced evaporation has been observed in some materials, this is the first time it’s been shown to occur for diamond,” Mildren said.


The diamonds were bombarded with strong light pulses in the UV-C band, and tiny holes in the diamond surface were noticeable after only a few seconds. The amount of lost mass in the diamond decreased markedly with lower light levels but the etching process still continued, but it did so at a slower and slower speed, Mildren said.


However diamond lovers and investors will want to hold off on going into massive panic mode. Midren also notes that the rate of deterioration is very slight and it’s barely noticeable under normal situations. Actually, even very bright UV conditions, like intense sunlight or being under a UV lamp would still take an incredible amount of time to see an observable distance. In theory it would take 10 billion years, which is the age of the universe.


The research results give observers information about the stability of diamonds, but they also give scientists many options for future research.


It’s a very practical discovery and we are now looking at how we can exploit this,” Mildren said.

“If we can make structures in the diamonds that enable us to control the position of the light within a very narrow filament in the diamond, that’s the first step to making smaller and more efficient optical devices such as those used in quantum computing and high performance lasers.”

They even think that the development might be able to one day show us how to find diamonds on the surface of other planets, Mildren said.

Space diamonds? Now that’s a good reason to have a space program.

Science junkies will be happy to know that a copy of the paper is available online without a pay wall.