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Developments in synthetic diamond production

Recent article pertaining to developments in synthetic diamond
production by CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and potential uses in

Pam Chott

Synthetics drive diamond revolution

DAKAR, Senegal (Reuters) – From ultra-durable drill bits to
semiconductors and optical instruments, industry officials say
the uses for diamonds are multiplying and advances in
synthetic production have opened the floodgates to ever more
innovative applications.

“Diamond as a material is like what steel was in the 1850s and
what silicon was in the 1980s. There will be lots of uses for
it in the next 50 years but there is not enough of it in the
ground,” said Bryant Linares, president and CEO of
Massachusetts-based synthetic producer Apollo Diamond.

“We have the potential to make semiconductors which can be
faster, and better, than any of the existing available
semiconductors,” said Linares’ father Robert, chairman of the
family-controlled business, speaking in a joint call to

The durability of diamonds at high temperatures may
revolutionize high-performance processors and could help make
the electric car a reality for consumers around the world, he

“A lot of the problem with electric cars, power grids and even
the computers of the future is dealing with the heat. The use
of diamond rather than silicone can reduce the amount of
circuitry by up to 80 percent,” he said.

One of the major advances in synthetic diamond technology is
chemical vapor deposition (CVD), which forms diamonds through
a chemical reaction between gases.

CVD can be manipulated to make particular shapes of diamond
much more effectively than the older “high pressure, high
temperature” (HPHT) method developed by General Electric in
the mid-20th century which compresses carbon into diamond
using molten metal as a catalyst.

That means wafer-thin layers of diamond can be produced for
use in microprocessors, or thicker diamonds for other

The vast majority of diamond used in industrial processes
around the world are synthetic. The Diamond Trading Company
(DTC), the marketing arm of diamond giant De Beers, says some
200 tons of tiny synthetic diamonds, or grit, are used by
industry each year – several times total mined production.

With HPHT production, relatively few gem quality stones were
produced, and most that were of yellow-brown color, sometimes
known in the trade as “canaries”.

But the CVD process gives the producer more control over the
diamond produced and, vitally, can produce colorless stones.

De Beers, which controls around 55 percent of rough diamond
sales by value, is also in the synthetic market through its
Element Six subsidiary, the leading producer of synthetic
diamonds for industrial use.

De Beers estimates the potential market for industrial diamond
applications at $50 billion – nearly as much as the $60
billion worldwide gem diamond jewelry sales and several times
the $16.7 billion worth of diamonds in that jewelry.

In addition to its hi-tech products, Apollo has its eye on the
gem market and believes CVD will eventually produce diamonds
to compete openly in the market with mined stones.

“They are chemically, physically and optically identical to
mined diamonds,” said Robert Linares. “(But) we would prefer
the fiancee to know she’s got an Apollo diamond.”

De Beers says synthetic production poses little threat to its
market for traditional mined gems, quoting research showing
that 94 percent of women want real – not synthetic –

It has developed machines that can tell even colorless
synthetic gem diamonds from the real thing, to prevent
synthetic diamonds being passed off as mined gems.

“A diamond’s value is based on its inherent rarity,” DTC
global marketing chief Stephen Lussier told Reuters. “They are
all as old as the world. The world has stopped making

Dear Pam,

Thanks for the article on diamond synthesis. I note, however, that
the author made reference to "real " versus synthetic diamond.
Literally, that appears to me to be bogus. A synthesized diamond is
quite real ! For the sake of accuracy it might be better to use the
term natural as opposed to synthesized. The buying public is quite
confused enough without having it more obfuscated by misuse of

I note that the article made no mention of ultra dispersed diamonds.
These are the latest product of nanotechnology. The particle size is
so miniscule that they are measured at the single digit nanometer
level. They are capable of producing finer polishes than ever before
thought possible.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.