Once upon a time, we have heard such a saying: “Diamonds last forever, and one will be handed down forever”. It is precisely because of the crystal clear appearance of diamonds, coupled with its solid material, that diamonds have gradually become one of the luxury goods that a new generation of people are competing to buy.
However, with the development of the times, gradually diamonds will be devalued, which is due to the formation of diamonds.
We all know that there are many extreme environments on other planets or in the universe, and such extreme environments are very easy to form the diamonds we are wearing now.
There was a hypothesis that the high temperature and pressure environment thousands of kilometers below the surface of Neptune and Uranus would cause hydrocarbons to split, making carbon compressed into diamonds and further into the planet’s core.
At present, according to foreign media reports, diamond rain may occur on Neptune and Uranus deep in space. At the same time, scientists also provide the latest experimental evidence to prove the existence of diamond rain.
A recent experiment used a coherent X-ray laser from a linear accelerator at Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory to accurately measure how the “Diamond raindrop” process occurs, and found that carbon can be directly converted into crystal diamonds.
Plasma physicist Mike Dunn explained that this study provides a very difficult data to simulate: the “miscibility” of the two elements and how they combine when mixed, we observe how the two components are separated, just like salad dressing is separated into oil and vinegar.
As the most unknown planet in the solar system, the distance between Neptune and Uranus is daunting. So far, only the space probe Voyager 2 has ever approached them and only flew by in a short time, rather than performing a long-term mission.
In fact, ice giants like Neptune and Uranus are very common in the Milky way. According to NASA, they are 10 times more than Jupiter like ice giants.
So understanding the ice giants of the solar system is very important for analyzing how the planets in the galaxy evolved. To better understand them, we need to understand what happened under the calm blue shell.
As far as we know, the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus are mainly composed of hydrogen and helium, as well as a small amount of methane. Below these atmospheres, an ultra hot and dense fluid, such as water, methane and ammonia, surrounds the core of the planet.
Several decades ago, calculation experiments showed that methane can be decomposed into diamonds under appropriate pressure, which indicates that diamonds can also be formed in this high temperature and dense material.
Previously, German physicist Dominique Krauss made experiments at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in the United States, and verified this conclusion with X-ray diffraction method. Now, Klaus and his colleagues are pushing their research further.
“We now have a promising new method based on X-ray diffraction. Our experiments provide important model parameters. However, there are many uncertainties in previous experiments. With the discovery of more and more exoplanets in recent years, these parameters are no longer important,” Klaus said
It is a challenge to copy the internal structure of giant planets in experiments. Researchers need some precision equipment, such as coherent light source of linear accelerator. At the same time, they also need a material that can copy the internal structure of giant planets. Therefore, the research team changed methane (CH4) into hydrocarbon polystyrene (C8H8).
The first step in the experiment is to heat and pressurize the material to replicate Neptune’s internal environment 10000 kilometers underground: in hydrocarbon polystyrene, the shock wave generated by an optical laser pulse heats the material to 4727 degrees Celsius, creating a strong pressure.
Experimental material of driving laser stepped pulse curve compression
“We created 150000 MPa of pressure in the lab, which is equivalent to the weight of 250 African elephants with their thumbnails,” Klaus said.
Previous experiments usually use X-ray diffraction to detect the internal structure of materials, but this method is usually only applicable to the crystal structure of the material, such as methane, and it is difficult to obtain a complete image for the non crystal structure of the material. In order to solve this problem, the researchers used another method to observe the electron scattering of polystyrene, and the experiment finally showed a good observation effect.
In this way, they can observe not only how carbon turns into diamonds, but also what happens in other parts of the sample – carbon breaks down into hydrogen, leaving little carbon.
“Now, in the case of ice giants, we know that carbon is almost completely diamond-shaped when it separates, and there is no form of fluid transformation,” Klaus said.
That’s important, because Neptune has some very strange phenomena, its internal temperature is much higher than its normal temperature, and the energy it releases is 2.6 times of the energy it absorbs from the sun.
If a diamond falls inside a planet, its density is much higher than that of the surrounding material. These diamonds, like raindrops, release gravitational energy and convert it into heat, which is generated by the friction between the diamond and the surrounding material.
This experiment shows that we don’t need another explanation, at least not yet. At the same time, this study confirms a method that can detect the internal structure of other planets in the solar system.
“This technology helps us to do interesting experiments, otherwise it’s very difficult for us to find the structural mechanism inside the giant planets,” Klaus said.
For example, we can learn about gas giant planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, and how they mix and separate hydrogen and helium under extreme conditions. It is a new method to study the evolutionary history of planets and planetary systems, and it also provides an experimental basis for future research on the power generation capability of nuclear fusion. “
The latest study is published in the recently published journal Nature communications.