Science 4 min read

3 Ways Industry 4.0 Uses Diamonds and Gold

Aside from getting a blinged-out grill, golad and diamond are incredibly useful materials in technology. | Deyan Georgiev |

Aside from getting a blinged-out grill, golad and diamond are incredibly useful materials in technology. | Deyan Georgiev |

In addition to the variety of their current uses, diamond and gold are constantly finding new industrial applications. Today, we bring you three new ways diamond and gold can be used to further Industry 4.0.

After moving 22.5 million tons of earth, the Kimberley diamond mine in South Africa, known as “the Big Hole“, yielded a total of 14.5 Million Carats (2900 kg) over 45 years of operation (1871-1914).

It takes an awful lot of time and resources to dig gigantic pits in the ground to end up with such relatively small amounts of this hard gemstone.

As part of his ongoing For What It’s Worth project, South African photographer Dillon Marsh has created a series of photos that place diamonds on a visual scale.

While gem-quality diamonds are usually used in jewelry, stones that contain defects are no less valuable.

In fact, scientists have shown that defective diamonds can make for an efficient data-storage material.

The same defects also make diamonds valuable to certain aspects of quantum computing, particularly with diamond-defect Qubits. However, these are still far from being industrial applications.

The so-called industrial diamonds serve a variety of non-gem uses, especially in the manufacture of certain tools and industrial equipment.

So much goes into extracting diamonds, but they’re well worth the effort. The same goes for other precious minerals like gold.

As researchers and scientists continue to explore the full potential of diamond and gold, their application field is expanded to serve advanced industrial techniques.

3 Ways Diamonds and Gold Will Become Industry 4.0 Materials:

1. Flexible Nano-Needles Made of Hard Diamonds

It’s known that only a diamond can scratch another diamond. On the Mohs scale, diamonds rest on top of all other gemstones. However, although diamonds are the most scratch-resistant gemstone, they can be crushed quite easily due to their crystalline structure.

Now, an international research team at MIT has shown that diamonds under certain forms can be more malleable than we imagine.

Researchers demonstrated that diamonds in the form of ultrafine nano-needles can bend and stretch by up to 9% without breaking.

This unexpected property of diamonds promises a multitude of industrial tools and technique

These diamond nano-needles will “open up unprecedented possibilities for tuning its optical, optomechanical, magnetic, phononic, and catalytic properties through elastic strain engineering,” said researchers.

2. “Impure Diamonds” for Ultraprecise Magnetic Resonance

Under a microscope, a diamond will reveal its impurities that are invisible to the naked eye.

Although faults, these same microscopic impurities inside diamonds could lead to ultra-precise imaging techniques.

One of these impurity types, called a nitrogen vacancy, has already been investigated for data-storage.

Recently, a team of physicists at Harvard University developed a system for micron-sized Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (or MRI) using the microscopic defects in diamonds.

This new diamond-based magnetic resonance system will reportedly: “enable researchers to peer into previously unseen biological processes as well as the chemical properties of materials, and could help open the door to answers to a host of new questions in fields ranging from condensed-matter physics to chemistry to neurobiology.”

3. Gold Nanostructures in Water

To our eyes, gold is pure, shiny, and precious.

Like diamonds, gold has amazing unexpected properties on the nanoscale that could provide practical solutions to some of our enduring problems.

Researchers are investigating the virtues of gold in form of nanoparticles and nanowires with various potential applications in electronics, healthcare, and environmental protection.

Stanford University scientists report about a new and “green” technique to create gold nanoparticles using water microdroplets.

Read More: Why the Ocean is the Next Frontier for Gold Miners

One of gold’s properties that only shows on the microscopic scale is the high chemical reactivity of its atoms. This makes gold an excellent catalyst for certain chemical reactions.

The Harvard team managed to create gold nanoparticles, nanowires, and other nanostructures from a gold precursor using microdroplets of water instead of toxic reducing agents.

This new method, if scaled up, bypasses the need for toxic reducing agents. At a minimum, it would open the way to a more eco-friendly production of metal nanostructures.

 “Being able to do reactions in water means you don’t have to worry about contamination. It’s green chemistry,” said Richard Zare, a chemist at Stanford and leader of the study.

Gold and diamonds have been precious in most societies for centuries. Now, their practical applications are becoming even more intrinsic in our Industry 4.0.

In the future, it’s likely that we will find even more uses for these precious materials, especially on the nanoscale.

Do you know of any other new uses or production techniques for precious metals like diamonds or gold?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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