The universe likely has trillions of planets made primarily of diamonds, scientists confirmed
- "Diamond planets" in the universe could contain the substance in abundance.
- Researchers tested the existence of such planets by subjecting silicon carbide – a mineral thought to exist on carbon-rich planets – to extreme heat and pressure.
- With the addition of water, the mineral was converted into
diamondsand silicon, showing that diamond planets are possible.
- Researchers say the universe could contain trillions of diamond planets, even if such worlds are rare.
On Earth, diamonds are considered precious partly because they're fairly rare: The
But on other planets in the universe, diamonds may be as common as ordinary rocks.
According to new research published in The Planetary
The researchers behind the finding, a team from Arizona State University and the University of Chicago, found that under high-heat, high-pressure conditions like those found inside the Earth, certain planets may be making vast quantities of diamonds beneath their surfaces. So much so, in fact that they're primarily made of the material.
"In the universe, there are about 100 billion planets in our galaxy and 100 billion galaxies in the universe," Harrison Allen-Sutter, the study's lead author and graduate assistant at Arizona State's School of Earth and
These worlds, known as carbide exoplanets, contain far more
By simulating the conditions on such a planet in the lab, the researchers confirmed that if heat and pressure get extreme enough — and if a planet has water — silicon carbide can convert to silica and super-compressed carbon crystals, otherwise known as diamonds.
In a lab, the researchers mimicked what this chemical reaction would look like on a carbon-rich planet by first submerging silicon carbide in water. Then they placed samples of the material into a device called a diamond-anvil cell, which consists of two anvil-shaped diamonds that can compress small bits of material using extreme pressure when pressed together. The scientists then superheated the pressurized sample using a laser.
At the end of the process, the sample had indeed converted into diamonds and silica – just as the researchers had predicted. It was confirmation that, yes, it's possible diamond planets exist.
"These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system," Allen-Sutter said in a press release. That's because carbon-rich planets can only exist near stars with relatively high carbon-to-oxygen ratios, which our sun lacks.
Diamond planets, assuming they exist, would have harsh environments: The researchers theorized that their atmospheres would have to be rich in methane and other gases that are low in oxygen. Plus, the planets would be too hard to be geologically active – a characteristic that keeps temperatures stable.
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