Diamonds on Jupiter and Saturn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A team of scientists recently[when?] claimed that the mix of methane, carbon and lightning in Saturn's atmosphere is causing diamonds to be formed in the planet's atmosphere. These diamonds would be around a centimetre in diameter, but could range in size based on the availability of carbon at the time of the diamond's formation. The new study estimates that there are more than 2,000 tons of diamonds being created every year on Saturn. Mona Delitsky of California Speciality Engineering in Flintridge, and Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claimed that it is possible. Saturn's atmosphere is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium, with trace amounts of methane. When storms form, the lightning causes the methane to decompose, producing hydrogen and elemental carbon. As the carbon falls towards the planet, it may bond together forming graphite, and as the pressure builds up closer to the planet's core, that graphite may be compressed into diamond. The scientists think the same thing might be happening on Jupiter too. Both scientist laying out their argument at American Astronomical Society's annual meetings in Division for Planetary Sciences in Denver, Colorado.[1][2][3][4]

The new predictions have not been reviewed by peers, but according to a few planetary scientists they are possible. Dr. Raymond Jeanloz said:

The idea that there is a depth range within the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn within which carbon would be stable as diamond does seem sensible. says Professor Raymond Jeanloz, one of the member of the team who first predicted diamonds on Uranus and Neptune.[5]

And given the large sizes of these planets, the amount of carbon (therefore diamond) that may be present is hardly negligible.

Dr Nadine Nettelmann, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said further more work was needed to understand whether carbon can form diamonds in an atmosphere which is rich in hydrogen and helium such as Saturn's

The belief[edit]

In their scenario, lightning zaps molecules of methane in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, liberating carbon atoms. These atoms then stick onto each other, forming very large particles of carbon, which the Cassini spacecraft may have spotted in dark storm clouds on Saturn. A spectographic analysis seems to support this theory. As the particles slowly float down through ever-denser layers of gaseous and liquid hydrogen towards the planets' rocky cores, they experience ever greater pressures and temperatures. The carbon is compressed into graphite, & then into solid diamonds before reaching a temperature of about 8,000 °C, when the diamond melts, forming liquid diamond raindrops. That diamond rain that forms on both planets is based on the methane levels and the high temperatures needed to form diamonds on both planets, which form at 3650 degrees Fahrenheit.[6]

People ask me - how can you really tell? It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we're pretty certain.

Dr Kevin Baines

University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Different Belief and Theory[edit]

It is possible that diamonds exist on Saturn and Jupiter on the basis of a different prior theory by Reginald B. Little. In 2000-03, Little previously proposed (2000) and demonstrated (2003).[7] that a strong magnetic field can organize diamonds at lower temperatures and pressures relative to the higher pressure and temperatures formations from amorphous carbon and/or graphite. In 2005, Little realized that lightning could also provide such a magnetic field to directly transform graphite and elemental carbon to diamond and Reginald Little experimentally observed Nanodiamonds form from terrestrial lightning bolts upon solid carbon in 2009. Therefore, on the basis of his prior work, Reginald Little reasoned in 2013 that diamond particles can form and exist in the lightning storms and clouds on Saturn and Jupiter but by the direct cloud transformation of carbon to small diamond particles by lightning strikes in such clouds. As Baines and Delitsky report here in 2013, the lightning striking methane generates elemental carbon in clouds on Saturn and Jupiter, but Little asserts that the diamonds form not from the carbon sinking into the core of these planets but by subsequent lightning strikes on the generated carbon in the clouds. Therefore, Little suggests that the lightning directly transforms the elemental carbon to small diamond particles in the clouds with such diamonds in the clouds sticking together and falling as diamond hail. As the diamond hail falls it is chemically etched by the hydrogen in these planets under higher pressure and temperatures to reform methane gas. The resulting methane gas rises back to reform clouds to create a cycle of hydrogen-methane cloud forming diamond hail at higher elevations (by lightning) and the resulting diamond hail reforming hydrogen methane as it (the diamond) falls to lower elevations by temperatures for a diamond-hydrogen to methane cycle on these planets of similarity and analog to water-steam-ice cycle in thunderstorms on Earth. Such a cycle is important on these planets of Saturn and Jupiter to explain the prevailing presence of methane in their atmospheres. If the methane as by Baines and Delitsky is irreversibly converted to elemental carbon and to graphite at lower elevation and irreversibly to diamond at even lower elevations in Saturn and Jupiter then the atmospheres would be completely stripped of methane which is inconsistent with the persisting hydrogen, methane ammonia clouds of these planets. But unlike Baines and Delitsky prior theory of diamond forming toward the interior of these planets as the carbon falls (2013), Reginald Little asserts that the diamond forms in the clouds directly from frequent lightning striking the elemental carbon in the clouds. Reginald Little in 2005 also proposed that lightning striking Kimberlites on earth may explain diamond in certain Kimberlitic rocks relative to non producing Kimberlitic rock on Earth. Reginald Little correlated the most producing Kimberlitic rock with regions on the Earth with the highest yearly frequency cloud to ground lightning central to southern Africa. Prior to the birth of science, over thousands of years ago some ancient people in India believed that diamonds form by lightning striking rock but this belief was non scientific as there was no elemental basis for diamond and they believed granite would form diamond as well as slates, phyllites, mylonite, jade, marble, soapstone, and serpentine. The true theory and prediction came with Reginald Little in 2000. As only Carbonaceous rock perhaps with some iron only form diamond when struck by lightning. Extending this theory to other planets of Saturn and Jupiter as inspired by Baines and Delitsky, rather naturally and beautifully reasons direct transformation of elemental carbon to diamond by lightning[7] at high elevation in the clouds of Saturn and Jupiter is not subject to thermodynamics of chemically etching of diamond and mixing in the interior of the planets. As at higher elevations in the clouds of these planets the temperature is very low so such thermodynamic mixing is infeasible but the thermal quenching of the lightning transformed diamond is feasible. This model and mechanism of Reginald Little is also not subject to the low methane concentration argument. as the carbon is concentrated in from initial low methane concentrations by prior lightning strikes. So very frequent lightning strikes and severe lightning storms in these planets tend to support. Reginald Little diamond cloud theory in Saturn and Jupiter.![8][9][10]

Computational work of Yakobson and others published on January 17, 2014[11] supports this theory of lightning directly forming diamond from the elemental carbon and nanographite; as Yakobson et al. have subsequently shown that few layer graphene from such lightning strikes can be subsequently converted directly to diamond at low pressure as in the storm clouds of the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter from even the heat (and the magnetic field as by RBL) of subsequent lightning strikes atomizing hydrogen (the major component of the atmospheres of these planets) and hydrogen atoms attaching to few layer graphene edges near the bolts to transform the few layer graphene to thin diamond without the need for the graphene to fall deep into the interior of Saturn and Jupiter for high pressures to convert the graphite to diamond by what Yakobson notes "chemically induced phase transition". The heat and hydrogen may allow nucleating thin nanodiamond from thin few layer graphene, but the magnetic fields of the lightning are important for stabilizing formation of larger diamond during such processes beyond the nanosize and thinnest. The easy of suspension of few layer graphene in such upper clouds in these planets and the nice electrical conduction path by such suspended graphene for subsequent multiple lightning strikes through the suspended graphene give more feasibility to this direct lightning driven diamond formation theory in the hydrogen atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter as initially expressed by RBL.;[7]

Direct experimental evidence of the validity of RBL theory of electric current induced nucleation of diamond as by lightning striking amourphous carbon and graphite has been observed by Yacobson on May 15, 2014 [12] wherein Yakobson and others observe the nucleation of diamond in anthacitic coal if functionalized by hydrocarbons under the exposure to the electron beam within a transmission electron microscope. Such high-voltage, electron bombardment of the anthacite in the presence of hydrogen in Yakobson's system closely mimics the conditions of electrons of lightning striking carbon in hydrogen atmospheres in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter. The validity of RBL's proposal that the lightning strike can directly transform the carbon in the hydrogenous upper atmosphere to diamond without the need to fall into the high pressure interiors of Jupiter ad Saturn is thereby proven!.[12]

Recently on July 27, 2015, geologists in Russia with announcement from the Russian Ministry of Science disclosed that diamond were obtained from the lava of the 2012-13 volcanic eruption at the Tolbachik volcano in the Kamchatka peninsula in the country's far east[13] They noted that the diamond appeared to crystallize under the influence of electric discharge from natural lightning of the volcano during the eruption (such is totally consistent with prior theory and experiments of RB Little as directly, explicitly referring to huge magnetic fields of lightning forming diamond). But the geologists in Russia noted that Francis Bundy in a French patent in 1964 first suggested intense electric discharge (with much lower volts than in lightning strike) could help the very high (mechanical) pressure high temperature process for forming diamond as discovered by GE during the 1950s. It is important to note that high (mechanical) pressure high temperature processes during the 1950s (and until 2003) used electric currents only as heat sources (with no regards for magnetic and electric field effects later disclosed in 2000 by RBL), which at very high mechanical pressures over 6 GPa help transform carbon to diamond with FeS catalyst and at over 12 GPa (as Bundy himself discovered) directly transform graphite to diamond autocatalytically. From the earliest synthesis of diamond by von Platen and ASEA in Sweden (1953) and Hall and GE in USA (1954) and prior reasoning high mechanical pressures were thought the key condition and the mysterious role of the FeS catalyst remained. It was more recently in 2003 that RBL discovered very high magnetic fields over 20 Tesla could allow catalytic nucleation and growth of diamond at atmospheric pressures from methane and hydrogen by use of one of the strongest DC magnets in the world at NHMFL (Tallahassee, Florida, USA); and RBL introduced in 2000 magnetic field for understanding FeS catalytic role and prior paradigm of high pressure as inducing magnetism at high temperatures. On such basis RBL properly realize that the high volts and currents in lightning (and not high temperatures) could generate similar effects for transforming coal and hydrocarbon gas to diamond at much lower pressures (June 5, 2006); Little's proposal and lower pressures are more characteristic of lower pressures in the lava outside the volcano during eruption and external lightning strikes (therefore RB Little should be credited with the discovery).[7] On June 20, 2006 Alvin Snaper later released a patent [14] demonstrating the sudden collapse of a magnetic field (as during lightning strike but not referring to lightning strike) could form diamond and replace the high mechanical pressure and high temperature devices previously used and discovered by Hall, Bundy, Strong, and Wentorf during the early 1950s. It is important to note the monumental role of Hall, Bundy, Strong and Wentorf in their landmark contributions to diamond synthesis and the preceding high mechanical pressure high temperature conditions. But as is the character of orogressive great science, more knowledge and understanding accumulates with time for new paradigms as in the new century the role of huge magnetic and electric fields augmented the prior high mechanical pressure and high temperature conditions for diamond formation from the 50s and 60s. It is further important to note the factual distinction that the 1964 patent of Bundy used and understood the electric discharge for heating and raising the temperature of his carbon precursor and Bundy reasoned that higher power discharge (with no mention by Bundy of lightning) could more uniformly thermally delivery heat and heat transfer in and out of the huge high mechanical pressure system and Bundy's process depended solely on very, very high mechanical pressures (over 6 GPa) on the 1950s basis of the supposedly high pressure diamond stability region for diamond formation. But Little in 2003 introduced the very strong magnetic field in the lightning and not the uniform thermal energy as the basis of the lightning forming diamond. On such basis, of the huge magnetic and electric field effects at low (atmospheric) mechanical pressures of the recent work of Little and Snaper in 2006, it is more appropriate to credit Little and Snaper for the discovery of lightning transforming solid carbon to diamond and in particular Little alone also discovering in 2003 that magnetic field characteristic of lightning strike can transform carbonaceous gases to diamond. The later action of the USPTO in 2010 in issuing Snaper his patent (Little did not pursue his patent due to financial circumstances) is consistent with this reasoning (here) that Bundy's 1964 patent for electric heating did not protect the high volt and consequent high magnetic field components of lightning for diamond formation. If Bundy's 1964 patent had captured without limits the huge magnetic and electric field effects in lightning, then the 2006 patent of Snaper would be encroach Bundy's 1964 patent. At the time in 2006 the novel huge electric and magnetic field conditions disclosed by Little and Snaper for forming diamond seemed patentable and was patented. So this process of lightning striking live lava during the Tolbachik volcano in 2012-13 with diamond crystallization is an example of Little's 2003 discovery during this natural terrestrial process.

Furthermore, the recent August 2015 experimental observation of lightning transforming rock at the atomic level for forming a crystalline layer is consistent with this prior theory and datum of RBL that lightning can directly form diamond.[15]


  1. ^ "Annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Denver". American Astronomical Society. 
  2. ^ "On Jupiter and Saturn, diamonds fall as rain". Extreme Tech. 
  3. ^ Zolfagharifard, Ellie (14 October 2013). "Saturn and Jupiter's atmospheres could be filled with huge chunks of diamonds". London: Daily Mail UK. 
  4. ^ "Diamond Rain May Fill Skies of Jupiter and Saturn". Space. 
  5. ^ "Professor Raymond Jeanloz". Science Magazine. 
  6. ^ Teske, Johanna K.; Cunha, Katia; Schuler, Simon C.; Griffith, Caitlin A.; Smith, Verne V. (2013). "A Case Study of the C/O Ratio of 55 Cancri". The Astrophysical Journal. 778 (2): 132. arXiv:1309.6032Freely accessible. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/778/2/132. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Reginald Bernard Little's theory". Google Patent US20090016950. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Magnetic production of carbon nanotubes and filaments". Google patents US6761871. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Carbon Chemical Vapor Deposition in Intense External Magnetic Field". National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Little, Reginald B.; Goddard, Robert (2004). "Magnetization for lower temperature, selective diamond and carbon nanotube formation". Journal of Applied Physics. AIP Scitation - American Institute of Physics. 95 (5): 2702. Bibcode:2004JAP....95.2702L. doi:10.1063/1.1643784. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Kvashnin, A.; Chernozatonskii, L. A.; Yakobson, B. I.; Sorokin, P. B. (2014). "Phase diagram of quasi-2-dimensional carbon, from graphene to diamond". Nano Letters. 14 (2): 140117161902002. Bibcode:2014NanoL..14..676K. doi:10.1021/nl403938g. 
  12. ^ a b Sun, Y.; Kvashnin, A.; Sorokin, P. B.; Yakobson, B. I.; Billups, W. E. (2014). "Radiation-induced Nucleation of Diamond from Amorphous Carbon: Effect of Hydrogen". The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. 5 (11): 140515225400003. doi:10.1021/jz5007912. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Alvin Snaper's Patent". Google Patent US7854823 B2. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  15. ^

External links[edit]