Diamonds

Diamonds


Most gemstones contain several elements. The exception? The diamond. It's all carbon.


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Diamond is a solid form of pure carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal. Solid carbon comes in different forms known as allotropes depending on the type of chemical bond. The two most common allotropes of pure carbon are diamond and graphite. In graphite, the bonds are sp2 orbital hybrids and the atoms form in planes with each bound to three nearest neighbors 120 degrees apart.

In diamond they are sp3 and the atoms form tetrahedra with each bound to four nearest neighbors. Tetrahedra are rigid, the bonds are strong, and of all known substances diamond has the greatest number of atoms per unit volume, which is why it is both the hardest and the least compressible. It also has a high density, ranging from 3150 to 3530 kilograms per cubic meter (over three times the density of water) in natural diamonds and 3520 kg/m³ in a pure diamond. In graphite, the bonds between nearest neighbors are even stronger but the bonds between planes are weak, so the planes can easily slip past each other. Thus, graphite is much softer than diamond. However, stronger bonds make graphite less flammable.

Diamonds have been adapted for many uses because of the material's exceptional physical characteristics. Of all known substances, it is the hardest and least compressible. It has the highest thermal conductivity and the highest sound velocity. It has low adhesion and friction, and its coefficient of thermal expansion is extremely low. Its optical transparency extends from the far-infrared to the deep ultraviolet and it has high optical dispersion. It also has high electrical resistance. It is chemically inert, not reacting with most corrosive substances, and has excellent biological compatibility.


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