On Neptune and Uranus it rains diamonds: how are they forged in their atmosphere?

According to scientists, the rain of diamonds in the universe is more common than it seems. In their our system, Neptune and Uranus are capable of it.


A new study has found that ” diamond rain “, a type of hypothetical exotic precipitation on ice giant planets, could be more common than previously thought.

In a previous experiment, the researchers mimicked the extreme temperatures and pressures found deep within the ice giants Neptune and Uranus and, for the first time, observed the diamond shower as it formed .

Investigating this process in a new material that most closely resembles the chemical composition of Neptune and Uranus , scientists at the US Department of State’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and their colleagues found that the presence of oxygen causes the formation of diamonds more likely, allowing them to form and grow in a wider range of conditions and on more planets.

This is how diamond is formed in other atmospheres

The new study provides a more complete picture of how diamond rain forms on other planets and, here on Earth, could lead to a new way to make nanodiamonds, which have a wide range of applications in drug delivery, sensor doctors, non-invasive surgery, sustainable manufacturing and quantum electronics.

“The paper above was the first time we directly saw diamond formation from any mixture,” Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at SLAC, said in a statement. “Since then, there have been quite a few experiments with different pure materials. But inside planets, it’s much more complicated; there are many more chemicals in the mix. So what we wanted to find out here was what kind of effect these additional chemicals have.” .

The team, led by Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Rostock in Germany, as well as France’s École Polytechnique in collaboration with SLAC, published the results in Science Advances.

In the previous experiment, the researchers studied a plastic material made from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon, key components of the overall chemical composition of Neptune and Uranus. But in addition to carbon and hydrogen, the ice giants contain other elements, such as large amounts of oxygen.

In the latest experiment, the researchers used PET plastic, often used in food packaging, plastic bottles and containers, to reproduce the composition of these planets more accurately.

“PET has a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate activity on ice planets,” said Dominik Kraus, a physicist at HZDR and a professor at the University of Rostock.

The researchers used a high-power optical laser in the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) to create shock waves in the PET. Then they tested what happened to the plastic with pulses of X-rays from LCLS.

Using a method called X-ray diffraction, they observed how the material’s atoms rearranged themselves into tiny diamond-like regions. At the same time, they used another method called small-angle scattering, which hadn’t been used in the first paper, to measure how fast and how big those regions were growing. Using this additional method, they were able to determine that these diamond regions grew to a few nanometers across. They found that, with the presence of oxygen in the material, the nanodiamonds could grow at lower pressures and temperatures than previously observed.

“The effect of oxygen was to speed up the splitting of carbon and hydrogen and thus encourage the formation of nanodiamonds,” Kraus said. “It meant that carbon atoms could more easily combine and form diamonds.” (EuropePress)