The University of Alabama at Birmingham claims it has a new method for growing synthetic diamonds “100 to 200 times” faster than conventional methods.
The new method uses microwave plasma technology, says Dr. Yogesh Vohra, physics professor at the university, who holds the patent to the new technology.
Vohra says his new device can grow diamonds weighing a carat or more in a matter of days. “With the addition of boron in the microwave plasma, a large blue diamond like the Hope diamond can be grown in the laboratory,” Vohra says. He says it can also grow several stones simultaneously.
The patented process currently uses nitrogen in the growth process. This creates a yellow diamond that can be heated under high pressure to produce a light yellow or nearly colorless stone. Vohra is working to grow white diamonds at a higher rate to eliminate the purification steps from the growth process.
There are two main methods for growing synthetic gem diamonds—high pressure, high temperature and chemical vapor deposition. Both methods can economically produce synthetic stones, but manufacturers have had a hard time maintaining a consistent production of larger stones.
As with other synthetics researchers, Vohra says he’s interested in not only a diamond’s properties as a gemstone but also its industrial application, a potentially much larger market.
The Gemological Institute of America has said all synthetic gemstones are identifiable as non-natural. It could not be reached for comment about this recent announcement.