Scientists Turn Tequila into Diamonds
2011-08-21 0:00

By Jaya Jiwatram |

From the "too good to be true" files: A team of Mexican scientists have found a way to turn everyone’s favorite liquor into everyone’s favorite precious stone

Tequila may be just another drink to those out in the town, but to a team of scientists in Mexico their country’s native alcohol turned out to be a gem; a diamond, to be precise. Javier Morales, Luis Apátiga and Victor Castaño at the National Autonomous University of Mexico made the alchemist-worthy discovery while experimenting turning various organic solutions, such as acetone and ethanol, into diamonds. The scientists noted that 80-proof tequila (40 percent alcohol) had the ideal proportion of ethanol to water to create diamond films. In order to make the diamonds, they evaporated the tequila into a vapor, and then heated the vapor above 1400 degrees Fahrenheit before depositing it on silicon or stainless steel trays. The resulting diamond films were between 100 to 400 nm in diameter and free of impurities.
Hard and heat resistant, the diamond films could have several commercial applications, such as for cutting tools and optical electronic devices. At the moment, the team is looking into creating diamonds with impurities for potential use as a new kind of semiconductor. The scientists have bigger plans in sight, too: They intend to turn their work into an industrial-scale venture by 2011 and hope to find a tequila distiller to provide them with the supplies.

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In their experiments, the scientists grew the diamond films using "pulsed liquid injection chemical vapor deposition techniques." In a specially made device, they heated the liquid tequila to 280 ºC (536 ºF) to transform it into a gas. In a reaction chamber, they heated the gas to 800 ºC (1470 ºF) to break down its molecular structure, resulting in solid diamond crystals of about 100-400 nm. The crystals fell onto silicon or stainless steel trays, accumulating in a thin, uniform film. The high temperatures removed all of the tequila´s carbon impurities to result in pure diamonds.

The final diamond film was hard and heat-resistant - properties that could make the diamond useful as coatings for cutting tools, high-power semiconductors, radiation detectors and optical-electronic devices, the scientists explained. They plan to begin industrial-scale applications around 2011, and hope to interest a tequila producer in widening its market beyond the traditional beverage.

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