Science & Tech

What exactly are laboratory-grown diamonds (LGDs)?

  • During Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to the United States, he gave First Lady Jill Biden a 7.5-carat lab-grown diamond as a gift.
  • LGDs, or lab-grown diamonds, have grown in popularity in recent years due to their ethical and environmental advantages over mined diamonds.

What is Lab-Grown Diamond (LGD)?

  • Lab-grown diamonds are made using technology that mimics the natural geological processes that lead to diamond production.
  • LGDs have the same chemical, physical, and optical qualities as actual diamonds, unlike diamond simulants such as Moissanite or Cubic Zirconia.

Environmental and ethical benefits

  • LGDs are thought to be more socially and environmentally responsible than mined diamonds.
  • Their manufacture minimises the socially exploitative features of diamond mining while also reducing the environmental impact of typical mining practises.

Gifted diamond characteristics

  • The diamond is 7.5 carats in weight. Carat weight relates to the diamond’s size and weight, with one carat equaling 200 milligrammes.
  • The diamond was manufactured in a laboratory using advanced technology and is not a natural diamond mined.
  • The diamond has been certified by the IGI (International Gemological Institute) Gemological Lab. Certification assures that the diamond satisfies industry quality and authenticity criteria.
  • Cutting and polishing: To improve the diamond’s brilliance and visual appeal, it is precisely cut and polished. The precise craftsmanship and attention to detail result in a well-cut and faceted diamond.

Methods of LGD Production

(A) High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) Method:

  • This conventional procedure is putting a diamond seed, which is normally made of graphite, to intense pressures and temperatures in order to turn it into a diamond.
  • Heavy presses capable of producing enormous pressure (up to 730,000 psi) and temperatures reaching 1500 degrees Celsius are required for HPHT.

(B) Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) and Explosive Formation:

  • CVD is the process of depositing carbon atoms onto a diamond seed using a gas mixture, which results in the formation of a diamond layer.
  • Explosive formation, also known as detonation nano-diamonds, creates microscopic diamond particles through explosive reactions.

LGD Properties and Applications

  • Optical Properties and Durability: LGDs have similar optical dispersion to genuine diamonds, which gives them their distinctive glitter. Because of their toughness, they are appropriate for industrial applications such as cutters and tools.
  • Upgraded Properties and Industrial Applications: LGDs’ properties can be upgraded for specialised applications, such as strong heat conductivity and negligible electrical conductivity. LGDs are valuable in electronics because they act as heat spreaders for high-power laser diodes and transistors.

Impact on the Diamond Industry

(A) Sustainable Growth in the Jewellery Industry

  • LGDs are gradually replacing mined diamonds in the jewellery industry as natural diamond reserves diminish.
  • LGD production methods, including as cutting and polishing, adhere to known diamond industry practises.

(B) India’s Diamond Industry

  • The emergence of LGDs is unlikely to have a substantial impact on India’s diamond sector, which specialises in diamond polishing and cutting.
  • While adding LGDs into its offerings, India’s current diamond industry may continue to grow.

Commercial LGD Manufacturing in India: InCent-LGD

  • A 5-year research funding for an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was announced in the Union Budget 23-24 with the goal of supporting the development of LGD machinery, seeds, and recipes.
  • The India Centre for Lab Grown Diamond (InCent-LGD) would be established at IIT Madras.
  • InCent-LGD’s principal goal is to give technical help to domestic businesses and entrepreneurs, promoting indigenous manufacturing of Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) and High Pressure and High Temperature (HPHT) systems.
  • The project aims to grow the Lab-Grown Diamond (LGD) industry by providing start-ups with inexpensive technology, creating job opportunities, and increasing LGD exports.

The Economic Importance of LGDs

  • The gems and jewellery business accounts for around 9% of India’s total merchandise exports and is critical to the economy.
  • LGD have arisen as a significant technological advancement in the industry, with applications not only in jewellery but also in computer chips, satellites, 5G networks, defence, optical, and thermal and medical industries.
  • The global LGD diamond market, which was valued at $1 billion in 2020, is predicted to develop quickly, reaching $5 billion by 2025 and exceeding $15 billion by 2035.
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