You might find this hard to believe, but a German scientist is turning ordinary peanut butter into diamonds. Yep, the delicious nutty spread that you have in your cupboard is the exact material Dan Frost, a geologist from the Bayerisches Geoinstitut, is using to produce man-made diamonds.
Now, before you go out and invest in cases of Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan, it’s important to know just how Frost gets the mushy inexpensive peanut butter to transform into the world’s hardest and most coveted gemstone.
The formation of natural diamonds occurs when carbon-rich material is exposed to the extreme temperatures and pressures of the Earth’s mantle about 500 miles below the surface. Temperatures at that depth are 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and the pressure is 1.3 million times greater than the atmosphere.
To recreate this environment in his lab, Frost takes the carbon-rich peanut butter and cooks it in a furnace while squeezing it with a piston until it’s at 280,000 atmospheres of pressure. The heat and pressure force the carbon atoms to rearrange themselves into denser matter. Then, the already-dense crystals are squeezed a second time using an anvil composed of gem-quality diamonds. This process generates about 1.3 million atmospheres of pressure.
The result of the high-tech peanut butter torture test is a lab-created diamond suitable for industrial purposes, but not for jewelry. Frost acknowledges that the process is a slow and arduous one. It takes weeks to produce a diamond 3mm in diameter (about 0.10 carats).
Specifically, Frost believes that his peanut butter-based diamonds can be used to build better semiconductors in electronics and super-strong material for industrial applications.