Outer planets of our solar system may have oceans of diamonds

January 18th, 2010 - 2:32 pm ICT by ANI  

Sydney, January 18 (ANI): Scientists have said that the outer planets of our solar system may have oceans of diamonds.

According to ABC News, a new report has suggested that oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus.

The research is based on the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond.

It found, diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, with solid forms floating atop liquid forms.

The surprising revelation gives scientists a new understanding about diamonds and some of the most distant planets in our solar system.

“Diamond is a relatively common material on Earth, but its melting point has never been measured,” said Dr Jon Eggert of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

“You can’t just raise the temperature and have it melt; you have to also go to high pressures, which makes it very difficult to measure the temperature,” he added.

When diamond is heated to extreme temperatures it physically changes, from diamond to graphite.

The graphite, and not the diamond, then melts into a liquid.

The trick for the scientists was to heat the diamond up while simultaneously stopping it from transforming into graphite.

Ultrahigh pressures, the kind of pressures found in huge gas giants like Neptune and Uranus are some of the places where ultrahigh temperatures and ultrahigh pressures exist.

Eggert and his colleagues placed a small, natural, clear diamond, about a tenth of a carat by weight and half a millimetre thick, and blasted it with lasers at ultrahigh pressures.

The scientists liquefied the diamond at pressures 40 million times greater than what a person feels when standing at sea level on Earth.

From there, they slowly reduced the temperature and pressure.

When the pressure dropped to about 11 million times the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth and the temperature dropped to about 50,000 degrees, solid chunks of diamond began to appear.

The pressure kept dropping, but the temperature of the diamond remained the same, with more and more chunks of diamond forming.

Then, the diamond did something unexpected.

The chunks of diamond didn’t sink. They floated and became microscopic diamond ice burgs floating in a tiny sea of liquid diamond.

“An ocean of diamond could help explain the orientation of the planet’s magnetic field as well,” said Eggert.

Up to 10 percent of Uranus and Neptune is estimated to be made from carbon.

A huge ocean of liquid diamond in the right place could deflect or tilt the magnetic field out of alignment with the rotation of the planet. (ANI)

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