It is believed that it rained diamonds on Uranus and Neptune, and now scientists have copied it in the laboratory

The ice giant planets Neptune and Uranus may have the right conditions for diamond precipitation. Unfortunately, we can’t go and check ourselves, so we have to rely on the lab configurations of their airspace to find out. And that’s exactly what a team of physicists did: They used a vaporized form of common plastic to see how quickly and easily diamonds could grow in such conditions.

Diamond rain is a crazy idea, but it’s so crazy that it might work. upper atmosphere of Uranus and Neptune, Ice giants in the solar system, has exactly the right pressures and temperatures needed to cause this intriguing phenomenon. In the middle layers of the atmosphere, individual carbon atoms can stick together to form larger structures, which we know as diamonds. Once diamonds are large enough, they can make their way to lower levels of the atmosphere. At some point it becomes Too hot for them to stay solidthus they tolerate back into their own individual carbon atoms which float back to the upper layers.

It’s just like the water cycle on Earth, but instead of using water vapor and raindrops, it includes carbon and diamonds.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the technology to explore the atmospheres of these planets, so the only way to know if these rainy diamonds are on these worlds is to try to recreate the atmospheric conditions of those planets in the lab. Recently, the team has been Capable of producing nanometer scale diamonds in the laboratoryHowever, these results were somewhat limited because the experimental setup included only carbon and hydrogen.

Now, a team based at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Include the presence of oxygenwhich are abundant in the atmospheres of ice giants.

“The previous paper was the first time we had directly seen diamond formation from any alloys,” said Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at SLAC. “Since then, there’s been a lot of experimenting with different pure substances. But inside planets, it’s more complicated; there are a lot of chemicals in the mix. And so, what we wanted to find out here is what kind of effect these additional chemicals have.”

To generate the right atmosphere, the team turned to polyethylene terephthalate plastic, which you may recognize as a common material in food containers and bottles. “PET has a good balance of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate activity in icy planets,” said Dominic Krause, a physicist at HZDR and a professor at the University of Rostock.

The researchers found that including oxygen in the mixture speeds up the diamond formation process and facilitates diamond formation. “The effect of the oxygen was to speed up the splitting of carbon and hydrogen and thus encourage the formation of nanodiamonds,” Krause said. “This means that the carbon atoms can combine more easily and form diamonds.”

Although it is not a perfect recreation of the giant icy atmosphere, it is much closer than previous experiences. This finding gives us a boost in the right direction that diamonds are actually forming on those worlds.

Researchers can grow diamonds for only a split second. But in the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune, diamonds will have all the time in the world to form. The researchers say it’s entirely possible that the diamonds currently forming on Uranus and Neptune could weigh millions of islands.

So if you’re in the market for some new color, you know where to look.