July 16, 2007 A new study finds that diamonds probably don't crystallize in the atmospheres of planets such as Uranus and Neptune. The conclusion is contrary to recent speculation that small diamonds would spontaneously form in carbon rich layers of the gas giant planets. White dwarf stars, according to the study, are veritable diamond factories.
Physicists at the Universtiet van Amsterdam and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands performed a numerical analysis showing that at the temperatures and pressures in gas giant planets like Uranus, arrangements of carbon atoms would be much more suitable for creating tiny bits of graphite rather than diamond.
In white dwarfs, on the other hand, the simulation shows that the conditions would cause the carbon atoms to line up in configurations that are much more amenable for diamond crystallization. The conclusion is consistent with the 2004 discovery of a cooling white dwarf star that appears to have a solid diamond core 4000 kilometers across.
Although diamond formation in the atmospheres of gas giants is not strictly impossible, the Dutch physicists say that the odds are exceedingly slim that a diamond could have formed under the conditions that exist in Uranus in the entire lifetime of the universe.
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